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!

Major Life Update! On Change & Transformation

My life is pretty different lately.

I did not end up returning to law school for my second semester. It was a bit of a shock and I am still adjusting. I will not bore you with the details or decision making process, but I believe this was the best choice for me.

I did end up accepting a full-time position at Summit, my climbing gym and place of work for the past year. I was thrilled at this opportunity, and my first few weeks serving as the assistant general manager at my home gym has been a great experience.

I did not really plan or expect for either of these life-changing events to occur.

But they did.

And here we are now, weeks into these changes, and I feel grateful!

I used to think I was resistant to change.

And I definitely still am in a lot of ways: I don’t love goodbyes. I don’t love big moves (metaphorical or geographical). I don’t love starting over.

But the older I grow and wiser I become, the more I realize change isn’t harmful, it’s transformational.

Staying still, staying in the same place, staying stagnant never helped me. Saying yes to the old and no to the new never helped me. Oppositely, when I leapt into the unknown, when I said yes to something new, when I dared to be different, my life has always changed for the better.

I’ll be real with you: I’m scared.

Terrified, even.

I dreamt and planned to be an attorney for years. And now I am not quite sure what is in store.

But I’m also thrilled, excited, beaming! To continue working for a company I love, to keep hyping up rock climbing, to keep welcoming new faces into the climbing community. This new job has been the greatest gift of 2021 thus far.

I talk a lot about hope and expectation in this space. Even though my life is veering in a direction I didn’t predict, I still have hope, I am still expectant of a bright future and good things to come.

I am excited to continue sharing my story, my life, my heart with you. I’m excited to share all of the good things to come.

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!

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 Monthly Update: September

September highlights:

  • One of the last Saturday’s in September I spent participating in Summit’s 12-Hour competition. The all-day comp involves hopping around the DFW locations, and plenty of sweating and grunting and fist bumping. It was SO fun, but also exhausting.
  • One of the last Sunday’s in September I attended church with my parents, but this service was special because they relocated to the Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. My brother and his family also came. It was great participating in corporate worship again, and also spending quality time with my sweet nephews. Plus the weather was gorgeous!

September lowlights:

I honestly cannot think of a single lowlight during the month of September. What a blessing!

This month, I was filled by:

I hosted a dinner party with a few near and dear friends. We ate Chinese food, drank wine, and devoured delicious Crumbl cookies. We engaged in kind and uplifting conversation, and shared plenty of laughs. It was an evening of pure delight!

This month, I was emptied by:

Law school is starting to get real, and it’s hitting me hard. The stress of assignments and looming midterms started piling up at the end of the month.

In October, I’m looking forward to:

  • Seeing as I am posting this a bit late, some of the things I was looking forward to have already passed, including a weekend getaway to Broken Bow, OK with my gal pal Tink and my pup Jack. More to come on that later!
  • I’m going to my sweet friend McKae’s wedding in Colorado toward the end of the month. I am excited to 1) get out of Texas and experience some cooler weather, but mostly 2) to celebrate McKae & Creed’s love with some great friends of mine!

One Month In: Life Lessons From A Future Attorney

I’ve been a law student for a month now.

Yes, folks!!! Four weeks! 30 days! Late nights! Early mornings! That is an entire month of study sessions, introductions, office hours, Zoom classes, and power naps. All the things!

And guess what? I haven’t even cried once!

Now that I am essentially a practicing attorney (100% joking), I’d like to share some of the wisdom I have gleaned over this past month:

  1. Sleep is important. I learned the importance of sleep during undergrad when I suffered from severe insomnia. I would run off only a handful of hours of sleep for multiple days in a row. It negatively affected my energy, mood, and even personality. These days I am reminded the value of sleep and try to get in at least 8-hours per night.
  2. Dog motherhood is good for the soul. My sweet terrier-mix Jack is the light of my life. When I have a long day at school and walk through the front door, my sweet pup introduces me with eager squeals and little dances and pure delight.
  3. Make new friends, but keep the old. The Girl Scouts song rings true: I have made a couple of new 1L friends who have helped me study more and stress less. But I still have my climbing and church community by my side, too. It’s the best of both worlds!
  4. Saying no can be just as important as saying yes. Sometimes I mistake myself for the Energizer bunny and say yes to a bunch of things and people and activities and run around until I’m exhausted and grumpy and over everything. Those are not good times. Sometimes saying no is necessary for my study habits, school-life balance, and me-time.
  5. Jesus loves me, this I know. During this whirlwind month, so much has come and gone and changed and evolved. All of this change can be overwhelming, but it is still a comfort to know Jesus stays the same and loves me the same forever and ever, amen.

I have learned a lot of other stuff, too.

But I also have a lot of reading due tomorrow and a quiz I’m avoiding in this very moment, so I think I’m going to keep internalizing the other life lessons and share those with you another day.

I wanted to pop on here to let you fine folks know that 1) I am alive and well, 2) school has been a blast, and 3) I miss writing my little heart out on this page. I miss your eyes and attention and kindness and grace. I miss you!

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this silly little blog. Thank you for being you. Grace & peace!

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!

Hello, 26: Takeaways During My 25th Year

Well I’ve (almost) made it another trip around the sun!

I turn 26 on August 31. Year 25 was a big one: I pursued attending law school (and got in!!), quit a job, started two new jobs, became a dog and plant mom, and experienced quarantine with this pandemic.

A lot of life happened this year, many good and not-so-good things, many highs and lows, many in-betweens. Overall, I am so grateful for every moment, because they have led me to where I am today.

Let’s review this year’s most memorable takeaways:

  • Don’t give up on yourself. Four years ago I dreamed of going to law school. In the years since, I struggled with very severe on-and-off depression. I didn’t think I had what it took to get into law school. But lo and behold, during Year 25, I pushed through, and was accepted! It feels amazing to say that and equally amazing to begin this law school journey.
  • Give yourself a break. Early on into Year 25, I quit my stable job of being a legal assistant and chose to work part-time as a nanny and part-time at the climbing gym. Everyone thought I was crazy, but this break was exactly what I needed to focus on both myself and law school. It was every bit rewarding and liberating and just what I needed.
  • Do things that make your heart happy. Climbing rocks, drinking coffee, eating tacos, all of these make my heart sing. Let’s do more of what makes us happy.
  • Puppy love is the best. Adopting Jack and being a dog mom has been the best thing ever. There’s no love like puppy love!
  • New things are scary, but they can also be fun. Starting law school this fall (next week!!) is terrifying to me. I have to re-learn how to study and prepare for class and take tests. But I am also excited! It should be a fun, hard journey.
  • It takes a village. Without my friends, family, church, climbing, and blogger community, I do not know where I’d be today! I have been blessed with the kindest folks and sweetest community, and they help me get by on the reg.

Year 25 was refining, challenging, stretching. It was eye-opening and humbling. I pressed into some hard moments and hard conversations. I took care of myself, I loved others, I spent time with Jesus.

I am thankful for all of the change I experienced in Year 25–job adjustments, career change, moving, and more. It was one heck of a year, and I can’t wait to see what Year 26 holds. Bring it on!!

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.