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!

Be Kind To Yourself: On Practicing Self-Care In Quarantine

My world is upside-down at the moment.

And I bet yours is, too.

Due to the coronavirus situation, both of my jobs are on pause and I am holed up in my studio apartment alone. I have had some extra time on my hands, which has been nice but also strangely intimidating.

During this whole social distancing experience, I have made it a priority to be extra aware of my mental health and to practice self-care accordingly. Sometimes alone time can lead me to feeling isolated and down, so it is particularly important for me to check in with my thoughts and feelings, and to practice a little self-love.

Self-care for me during quarantine has looked like:

  • Sleeping in— something I rarely got to do during my regular routine, it has been nice sleeping into the morning and laying around in bed before I’m up and at ’em.
  • Going on walks— now that the sun is out, it has been so good for my soul to let Vitamin D sink into my skin and bones on walks around my neighborhood.
  • Calling Sweet Denise— mothers know best, right? Extra down time has meant extra time to talk to my sweet mama and check in with her, and let her check in with me.
  • Heck, calling everybody else— in the past couple weeks, I have caught up with old roommates, friends who have moved away, friends I rarely see even though we both live in Dallas, and it has been so life-giving to emotionally connect even during physical isolation.
  • Spending time alone with God— my quiet times pre-quarantine were looking few and far between, but social distancing has freed up more time and space and energy to reconnect with my Heavenly Father.
  • Working out— even though I can’t climb right now, I have been participating in live stream workouts like core, yoga, and bodyweight classes. It has been good to get my heart beating and blood pumping.

I asked my friends on Instagram what their self-care routine has looked like. Some of them are taking baths, reading books, napping, meditating, and doing yoga, among other things. It has been encouraging to see that others are trying to care for themselves during these strange times.

Here’s some guidance I have for you: think about your needs, write them down if it helps, and take steps to meet those needs.

Maybe you need verbal encouragement, then reach out to a loved one. Maybe you need rest, then carve out extra time to sleep in. Maybe you need physical activity, then find a workout online. Maybe you need spiritual uplifting, then reach out to your church friends.

At the end of the day, we are all living in unprecedented times that challenge us for varying reasons. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to get by. So my final encouragement for you is this:

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home.

 

We Will Not Be Changed: On Constancy + Coronavirus

Four years ago, life was easy in Nashville.

I had just graduated with my PR degree and I was working at an adoption-focused nonprofit. As a young 20-something adoptee who always dreamt of leaving my home state of Texas, I was living the dream.

I was going to a job I loved, working with people I loved, living in a city I loved. Everything was new and thrilling and adventurous and I felt like I had the whole world in my hands.

But then my world was rocked.

I went a week hardly eating and barely sleeping. My thoughts became disjointed and irrational. My mood became unpredictable and unstable. And I wound up back in Texas with a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

And (almost) everything changed.

Life was easy last week.

I was going to two jobs I loved–nannying and working at my climbing gym–with people I love, in a city I have grown to love: Dallas. As a mid-20-something with a heart for climbing and community, I was living the dream.

But this week rocked my world.

The coronavirus has taken over quite literally the entire earth: invading bodies, terrorizing economies, parting seas of people. It has violently taken over our thoughts and feelings and actions. It has threatened our lives and well-being.

It’s changed (almost) everything.

Bipolar changed my life, but it didn’t change me.

It changed the way I approach my feelings and emotions, it changed the way I process my thoughts, it changed the way I care for others. But I have always felt things, thought things, and cared for others. And that will never change.

It changed the way I understand mental health, it changed the way I practice self-care, it changed the way I see others’ hurt. But mental health has always been important to me, I have always tried to look out for myself, and sympathy has always been a part of me. Those things will never change.

This virus may change our lives, but it won’t change us.

A lot of us are physically keeping to ourselves these days, but we are still making (virtual) connections. We are still loving others as best as we can. A lot of us are feeling fear, but fear is just an emotion that we will always feel in moments throughout our lives.

Our lives are looking a lot different this days than they have in weeks past. We are holed up in our houses and apartments. We are establishing space between us and others. We are cancelling trips, homeschooling children, streaming church services.

But our identities, our beings, our inherent selves will not change.

I do not know if that encourages you or disappoints you or instills fear in you. I do not know what you are feeling or thinking or doing right now. But there is no concrete, definite right way to feel or think right now.

We are all just trying to do the best we can do. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And remember, we will not change.

Feelings Are Feelings: On Feeling Things

I’ve never been a touchy-feely person.

I have never been one to give hugs, to cry in front of friends, or to even cry in a room by myself, for that matter. I have never been the one to say “I love you,” whether that is to friends, family, or significant others.

But when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder several years ago, everything changed.

All of a sudden, I was faced by an onslaught of emotions. Emotions toward my disorder. Emotions toward my Heavenly Father. Emotions toward myself and to others.

It seems like all I do these days is feel.

When I started going to therapy nearly four years ago, my sweet therapist Chelsey challenged me to “sit in your feelings.” When I first heard this, I am pretty sure I laughed–audibly and loud. “What does that even mean?!”

Soon after I learned what “sitting in feelings” meant.

It means allowing myself to feel and to dig deep into whatever I am feeling at that moment. It means accepting the seemingly “bad” feelings like sadness and anger and dwelling in them, even when I don’t want to. I only realized that these “bad” feelings are not bad at all, but only feelings themselves.

It’s not a bad thing to feel.

I used to perceive that showing feelings made me look weak. I thought I could not cry in movies or with my friends because others would think less of me, they would think I was too sensitive or feminine.

But these days, I realize that feelings are feelings are feelings. And we all face our feelings each and every day, whether we acknowledge them or not. Sometimes we sit in them. Sometimes we ignore them. Sometimes we face them head on. But we all have them, that is just how we are built, and that is okay!!

Here is my challenge to you:

I dare you to sit in your feelings at least one time this week. Whether you feel sadness or anger or absolute joy, I dare you to dwell in what you are feeling and allow yourself to feel that emotion. I dare you to be thankful for whatever feeling it is.

Because you are built to feel things. You are made to feel elated and down and worried and excited and sad and every emotion in between. Feelings are just feelings, and we are wired to feel things, and that is a beautiful thing.

Myths & Facts About Mental Health

It’s mental health awareness month.

If you’ve been keeping up with my journey, then you are aware that I struggle with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. I’d like to discuss some myths and facts about each of these illnesses.

Bipolar disorder:
  1. Myth: bipolar disorder is just an excuse for someone to be moody. Fact: bipolar is a mood disorder marked by uncontrollable emotional highs and lows.
  2. Myth: all people who have bipolar cannot be trusted because their moods change within seconds. Fact: bipolar is different on a case-by-case basis. While some may be more temperamental than others, every bipolar person should be supported.
  3. Myth: everyone is a little bipolar. Fact: every person has changing moods, but those who have bipolar are unable to regulate theirs.
Depression:
  1. Myth: depression is just being sad. Fact: depression is a real mental illness that is marked by extreme, long-lasting sadness.
  2. Myth: people with depression should just choose to be happy. Fact: those who are depressed cannot simply snap out of it.
  3. Myth: depressed people can’t be helped. Fact: depressed people need a support group just like anyone else. If you know someone who struggles, reach out to them today.
Anxiety:
  1. Myth: anxiety is just being overwhelmed. Fact: anxiety is caused by negative, false thoughts that hinder people from going about their everyday lives.
  2. Myth: anxiety is not a big deal, because everyone has it. Fact: while almost everyone struggles with mild forms of anxiety, not everyone battles anxiety disorders. The latter need extra self-care to help alleviate the pains of anxiety.
  3. Myth: anxious people can only be helped by therapists. Fact: friends and family can make a huge, positive impact when they help those with anxiety.

It’s important to talk about mental health.

I hope when I share my journey of mental wellness, that I am able to break down some myths you may have believed all of this time. I hope that when I tell you about bipolar/depression/anxiety, you learn about how to love others who have similar struggles.

Thank you for reading. As always, feel free to reach out to talk more about what you read.

I’m Not Where I Want To Be

Geographically, that is.

I never planned to return to Dallas post-grad. I never planned to stay in Dallas for over a year once I moved back. I never planned this.

I planned to live in Nashville, New York, or some other thriving city. I planned to move far, far away from the troubles I experienced in Texas.

I planned to leave the version of little, old me I had become, in an attempt to become a little, old me I always dreamt of being.

But here I am.

Here I am, in Dallas, TX. Here I am, living north of 635 (even though I’d prefer to be an Uptown Girl — hey @Billy Joel). Here I am, with a cat in my household.

I didn’t plan any of this.

Though I don’t geographically want to be here, I like to be here in many other areas:

  1. Emotionally- thanks to a lot of Jesus and a little therapy, I am at a place where I recognize and accept my feelings. Before Dallas, I simply didn’t address or cope with them. It was madly unhealthy.
  2. Physically- I am at a place where I workout more days than I don’t, and boy does it.feel.good.
  3. Mentally- I’ve battled some dips here and there, but there are more better days than worse, and that’s such a good place to be.
  4. Spiritually- Jesus Man is just throwing me happy, little curveballs left and right — and I LOVE them!

“Here am I, send me.”

It’s hard to say and even harder to apply. But when I feel bold and empowered and remember all that Jesus Man has done for me, I declare it.

“Hello, God. It’s me. Your daughter. Here I am! I’m Yours!” It’s a moment of vulnerability, me shouting out my availability. It’s a moment when I’m inarticulate, my lack of eloquence only highlights my uncertainty.

“Andiamo! Let’s go! Let’s do things! Let’s make Your Name known!” It’s a moment of excitement, where will He lead me? It’s a moment of slight panic, what exactly did I just sign up for?

I’m on day 608 of living in Dallas. Day 608 of saying yes to Jesus and no to wandering. Day 608 of letting myself settle in a place where I refuse to settle down.

It’s usually hard and not much fun, but it’s worth it. I may not be where I want to be, but here I am. Send me.