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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Your Heart’s Desires: On Setting Intentions

“Set an intention.”

My friend and yoga instructor said at the start of class. “What do you want to get out of this session?”

“Maybe you want to feel joy or peace,” she continued. “Maybe you want to improve in flexibility or mindfulness.”

The intention I set for myself was: do not die. Not technically an intention, I suppose. But a goal at the least. It had been months since my last yoga class. My stiff and inflexible body did not feel prepared. My perfectionist mindset feared failure, falling face-down on the mat and making a huge embarrassment out of myself.

Here’s the good news: I did not die.

Here’s the better news: the idea of setting an intention resonated with me for more than just yoga, but also for life in general.

Outside of yoga, I have also heard the term “intention” in the Christian dating sphere–insert eye roll here. From my experience, when a guy and girl are doing a good ole DTR (Define The Relationship), usually a question that comes up is: What are your intentions?

Like in yoga and Christian dating, it is important for us to recognize our intentions and set purposeful expectations. It is important for us to go into big decisions like friendships, relationships, life-altering changes noticing where we are, what we want, how we’ll get there.

Lately, I have been addressing my intentions.

I am heading into some big life changes–like attending law school–and I want to be aware with how I am approaching these changes and what the desires of my heart are.

I think with law school, my one-word intention is purpose. I want to be purposeful with how I approach it. I want this education to prepare me well for a career in law, but with purpose and meaning.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have also been revamping this creative space: renaming, new layout, etc. I think with this new blog direction, my one-word intention is impact. I want to make an impact with what I write and what I share. I want to create positive ripples of effect by sharing wisdom that can lead to peace, wellness, hope.

Here is my call to action:

I encourage you to identify your intentions. Your intentions for your relationships, your life goals, your meaning. I encourage you to see where your heart lies and what you want and how you’ll get there.

And I encourage you to continually check-in on those intentions, see if you are straying from them or holding to them well. I believe this will make you feel more self-aware and more attune to your purpose and meaning.

 

Hold Onto Hope: On Easter Sunday

Lately I have felt pretty hopeless.

With all of the chaos surrounding the coronavirus, it is easy for me to feel hopeless because I can’t change/control/fix the situation. I can’t come up with a cure. I can’t tell you when social distancing will be over. I can’t heal those who have the virus. I can’t leave my home when I want. I can’t magically start my jobs up again.

I can’t do a lot right now, and it makes me feel overwhelmed and weak and powerless. It makes me feel doubtful and anxious and insecure. I’m sad, I’m down, I’m at a loss.

Ironically, this upcoming Sunday is all about hope.

Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, is focused on the hope of Jesus Christ, a hope that is radical and unchangeable. When Christ died on the cross, he left the disciples and his family and his followers devastated and confused and empty. He left behind people feeling doubtful and anxious and insecure.

But behold! He rose three days later, Easter Sunday. He rose again and proved he was the Messiah, the Savior, a being that we can put our hope and trust and faith in.

It isn’t every day a man lives and dies and lives again for you. It isn’t every day your Savior rises from the grave and gives physical, tangible, undeniable evidence of his love for you. That is why this Sunday is so special, amazing and unbelievable.

I can’t do much these days, but I can trust in Jesus.

Romans 15:13 says this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Even though there is so much I cannot control, so much I question and doubt these days, I can stand firm in my faith. I can seek out those still, quiet and serene moments with my Heavenly Father. I can press into Truths found in scripture, I can lean into His promises.

Hope found in Christ gives us joy and peace. Hoping in Christ means I can find little joys every day, even when quarantine is hard and makes my heart heavy. Hoping in Christ means I can have peace with all that is going on, even if it is a lot to take in.

Sometimes it is hard to hope in Jesus Man. I can’t see him or hear him, sometimes I can’t even feel him near me. But the evidence of his life, death and resurrection show his love for me. They give me reason to hope. And I hope they give you a reason to hope, too.

2020: On A New Year + Decade

2019 was a big year.

I left my very first adult job, started a new one that I subsequently quit six months later. I became a part-time nanny (again) and a part-time front desk worker at my climbing gym.

I began to take the dream of going to law school seriously, took the LSAT (twice) and submitted several applications. I moved into an apartment of my own, now I am free to dance around pant-less and it’s great.

I was in my very first romantic relationship, we made it eight months before we called it quits. I said “yes,” to dream-chasing, “no” to people who crossed boundaries, “yes” to fun things, “no” to selfishness as best as I could.

2020 may be even bigger.

This is the year I am going to (hopefully) get into law school and start classes in the fall. This is the year I am going to learn how to lead climb (a specific type of climbing) and become less afraid of heights.

This is the year I am going to try to be fearless as I dive into the unknown–unknown plans with law school, unknown future with where I’ll live, who my friends will be, who I will become.

I don’t really do resolutions.

I never have, and probably never will. My mindset is, “Why would I need a change in the calendar year to push me to be better, when I can become better at any moment in time?” New Year’s resolutions just don’t make much sense to me.

But I do have goals for this year: become physically stronger, eat healthier, take the Sabbath seriously. Be less afraid of getting hurt when I care for others, and more confident in loving people outside of my comfort zone.

I want to be kinder, braver, lovelier, softer. I want to make big moves and do big things and not look back, all while feeling secure in Jesus Man’s love for me. I want to care lots in little ways and become a safe house to those who feel lost and scared and empty and sad.

I’m really excited! I’m really nervous!

I’m excited about heading into a new year and a new decade. I’m excited about all of the potentially great things the unknown has to offer. I’m nervous about heading into an era of newness: new school, new friends, new place. I’m nervous about trying and falling flat on my face.

But even if I do end up falling flat on my face, I know that I’ll be okay. I’ve got the best family, friends, and support system around. I’ve got the best Father who loves me in ways I can hardly fathom.

I have a feeling it’ll be a great year: one of growth, renewal, refinement. I have a feeling it may be an even bigger decade: ideally attending and finishing law school, making it into my 30’s, and more.

So here I go, trusting God in the waiting and in the unknown. Let’s do this!!

Leaving Behind & Looking Ahead

2018 is gone.

I’m not going to miss it much. Yes, there was much excitement — like becoming an aunt, solo-tripping to Prague, getting promoted, going on dates (after a long, long dry spell). But there was also a lot of hurt — saying goodbye to friends who passed, letting go of a big dream, battling depression, coping with anxiety.

2019 is here.

I’m welcoming it with open arms. Yes, there is bound to be hurt and disappointment and down days. But I’m also looking forward to those mountain-top moments and unbelievable highs. I’m expectantly waiting for every good and perfect give from above (see James 1).

2018 left me better.

As I hope to every year, I was moved and shaped and molded into more of who I would like to be. New and old friends came alongside me to push me by instilling hope, building dreams and staying steadfast.

In Philippians 3, Paul writes about how he strives for perfection, but will never be able to obtain it. He says he focuses “‘on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (v. 13).'”

It’s time for me to let go of 2018. I will never forget my friends or the pain of losing them, but I will let those wounds heal so I can move on and look forward to what God has in store in the new year. I will remember to hope and pray and give and receive grace when needed (which is practically always).

Let’s look ahead.

This year, I’m hoping to say more “I love you’s.”

I’m hoping to pause and breathe more, to step aside when the road gets bumpy or when I’m over-excited.

I’m hoping to savor the moments in-between more, not just those mountain-top highs.

I’m hoping to give thanks more often, to my friends and family and baristas and strangers and Jesus Man himself.

And I’m hoping to spread more kindness, because a little kindness can go a long way.

Let’s start this year strong.

This week, I began the Daniel Fast — modeled after Daniel’s diet during Biblical times. Ideally, I’ll be more disciplined about what I eat, and have more desire in seeking time with The Lord.

This month, I am going to unplug a bit — only using my phone from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ideally, I’ll start my days slower and with more intention, and end my days easier and with more peace and reflection.

Even though we’re only a few days in, I hope your year has been good to you. I hope you can leave the past behind and look forward to the future.