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!

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.

Get Up & Follow: On Grace That Moves

Have you ever been paralyzed by fear?

I know I have.

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

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

I’m not afraid anymore.

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

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

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

Now those are some words I needed to hear.

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

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

I feel hopeful and expectant of the future.

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

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

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

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

Four Years Of Bipolar: On Hope + Expectation

Commissary

I was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago.

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

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

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

And she was right.

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

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

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

My fears were unfounded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So my friends, be encouraged.

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

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

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

Hand It Over: On Giving Daily Anxiety To Jesus

We have a lot to be anxious about these days.

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

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

We say things like:

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

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

The other day I stumbled upon a sweet reminder.

1 Peter 5:7 says this:

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

Let’s hand our worries over to Jesus.

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

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

These truths calm me.

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

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

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

I used to feel awfully alone.

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

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

But these days, I feel awfully loved.

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

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

It takes a village.

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

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

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

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

More Than Conquerors: On When Doubt In God Creeps In

Lately, I’ve doubted God.

I have not doubted His existence, but I certainly doubt His power and even His presence. I doubt He wants and works for what is best for me, I doubt whether He truly loves me with all that He is.

As per usual, me and my sinful heart are wrong — as a child of wrath, I simply cannot fathom all of His grace and kindness (see Ephesians 2). I’m caught up in Satan’s lies and my faith suffers from it.

But God — yes, the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of all things Good, the Father of my Spirit — He does do wonderful, miraculous things. He is present in the everyday mundane. He does want what is good for me and seeks that out. He loves me with His entire being and expresses that through grand, amazing gestures.

So why the doubt?

Though it’s been two years, I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Though it’s been a life time, I still suffer from insecurity and self-hatred.

It’s Satan lying to me, telling me, “Maelyn, you are not worth dying for. You are not worth giving life.”

So here I sit, in darkness and bitterness, doubting a Heavenly Father who has been so gracious to me.

I am more than a conqueror.

According to Romans 8, nothing can separate me from God’s love. Nothing on this side of Heaven can touch my relationship with Him, not even Satan himself.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

– Romans 8:37

When I face doubt in God and my faith, I must remember that I am more than a conqueror. That even Satan’s lies cannot keep me from the love of my Father, the power of His presence, the grace that He gives.

Mental illness and death and loss and hatred and broken hearts cannot keep me from loving and being loved by The King. These things are only earthly distractions, excuses not to pursue my faith. These things are only things that Christ came and died for.

Dear friend, when you doubt in Jesus, look to the cross. Look to the wonderful example of God’s loves. Look to how he conquered sin and death and Satan. Dear friend, remember you are more than a conqueror.

 

The Art Of Kindness

So I met a guy —

No, not that kind of guy. Not a love interest, head-over-heels guy. A friendly, professional guy who just so happened to attend a work conference I planned the last eight months of my life.

During the middle of the conference this weekend, when I was at my most frazzled and pulling-my-hair-out moment, he stopped and showered me with kindness.

“You’re doing a great job, you’ve been working really hard,” he said. This recognition brought peace to my weary mind.

“Tell me about what you do. What are your dreams? What do you hope to be?” He asked, inquisitively listening to every word I said.

It was in this moment that I remembered what my mother Sweet Denise always taught me: be kind.

Kindness is an art.

It’s hard to be kind when I’m in the middle of a very important conference for a very important job doing very important things. It’s hard to be kind when I wake up at 6 a.m. for a 12-hour-long work day when all I want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep my worries away.

There’s an art to kindness: it takes purpose, pure intent and selflessness. It takes not caring about looking good, but instead compassion that acts on doing good.

I hope that I can be as kind this guy — to go out of my way to care for others, to step out of my comfort zone to make someone’s day. I hope to put others’ healing over my hurt, others’ joy over my success. I hope these things because kindness is noticeable, it’s recognizable, it’s important.

When God’s Not There: On Anger & Grief

Lately, I’ve been mad at God.

Even though it’s been two years since my bipolar diagnosis, I still struggle to accept it. I struggle to take advantage of the life I currently live, and look back to the past when I was free of the shackles of mental illness.

Most days, I live freely and resiliently and face depression and anxiety and mood swings headfirst. I am unafraid and bold and empowered to beat this illness, to be more than my state of mind and heart.

Some days, I can’t help but weep: I mourn for the life I once had, I mourn for the dreams I used to chase. I can’t help but get down on my knees in anger and physically scream at God, “How could you do this to me?!”

I still work through it.

I don’t know if there’s a right way to be mad at God. I’m sure there are devotional and self-help books to get me there, but my main approach is to learn along the way.

Some days that looks like skipping out on church. Other days it’s skipping out on prayer. It’s a boycott from trying to let Him in, a silent and peaceful protest against the hurt He’s allowed.

And yet, other days it looks like attending church and crying during worship. It’s praying to God and begging Him to be closer than ever, because I just don’t feel Him near me anymore.

Grief is married to anger —

Or so it has been in my experience. Along with this anger comes this utter sadness I cannot seem to shake. It’s just as hard to succumb to as the anger.

How can we grieve well? How can we mourn?

I’m not quite sure, but it in my life, it’s been a very similar approach to anger: rejecting any opportunity to come close to God, or falling on my knees to beg Him to be near.

I hope one day I’ll move past this.

Past the anger and grief. Past the fear and doubt. Past the unknowing and feeling of being lost. I know one day I will get there, but today is not that day. It doesn’t have to be today. It’s OK to not be OK, and I need to learn to accept that.

I hope you’re not in my shoes, battling anger and grief against God and your circumstances. But if you are, know that you are not alone, and you can overcome this. I hope you find a support system and can practice healthy steps of self-care.

I hope you find resiliency in your head and heart and know you will thrive, even if it’s not today. Especially if it’s not today.

Anxiety 101: How I Combat High-Functioning Anxiety

Anxiety affects different people differently.

For the longest time, it was hard to recognize anxiety in my life.

thought waking at 2 a.m. with a racing heart was just a normal college thing, a side effect of a busy lifestyle. I thought thinking and believing and dwelling on failure was just a normal woman thing, a side effect of striving for perfection.

But neither of these are “normal,” neither of these experiences should happen often, yet I had them on a weekly basis for the longest time.

I struggle with high-functioning anxiety.

Instead of hiding in my room or bursting into tears or even self-harm, I thrive when anxious. In an attempt to look good, feel good and be good, I work work work hard at maintaining a perfect image.

I do my best to look normal on the outside, when I feel anything but on the inside.

My anxiety births itself when I am busy, when I have plenty to do and plenty more on my mind. It comes to life in the form of insomnia. It breeds negative and false thoughts.

So how do I cope with anxiety?

As said, anxiety affects different people differently, so different people cope differently. In the past year, since discovering my anxious habits and self-destructive thoughts, I have worked hard at abolishing my fears and doubts.

Here are my go-to’s:

  1. Prayer- I lift up my anxieties (Am I able to pay next month’s rent? Am I able to fall in love?) to the One Above who hears my cries.
  2. Meditation- Sometimes through yoga, but often simply laying in my bed, I sit in peace and quiet. I breathe in and out.
  3. Exercise- Climbing often takes my mind off worries and doubts and fears. I zone out from the demands of this world and zone into breathing, reaching, stretching.
  4. Rest- Physical, and more importantly, spiritual rest help me thrive. I nap and I read my Bible and I focus on my hopes and dreams and all good things currently happening in my life.
  5. Rejuvenation- This usually comes in the form of spending quality time with a quality person. I’m thankful for wonderful friends who speak Truths and encourage me when I am wary.

I hope you don’t struggle with anxiety, but if you do, I hope you know you are fully able to combat it with the right practices, prayer and people.

I hope you know you are an extraordinary person and you are strong for fighting this silent killer.

I hope you know you are not alone and never will be, that anxiety takes a toll on many of us, you just can’t see it.

I hope you know you are capable of living a full and happy and wonderful life. Because you, yourself are wonderful. Because you are loved. Because you are more than anxiety.