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

When I’m depressed, I tend to isolate.

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

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

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

It’s important to be self-aware.

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

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

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

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

Dear friend,

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

With kindness & love,

Mae

Self-Care Series pt. 1: The Importance Of Rest

Rest is important.

Boom, bang, done. If there’s anything I want you to glean from this post, it is the importance of rest and taking the time you need to re-energize and re-fuel yourself.

For someone who is a rest advocate, I will confess I am not great at prioritizing time to rest myself. It is easy for my calendar to fill up quickly, to find myself running from here to there, and to realize I’m drained after it’s too late.

Take it from me — don’t be like me! Carve out time to rest. Whether it’s physically sleeping, or just sitting in silence, your body needs to rest.

Some ways I rest include:

  • Power naps (20 minutes or less, or else I feel groggy)
  • Putting away social media for a dedicated period of time
  • Cuddling with my pup Jack on the couch while listening to music

Maybe some of these resonate with you, maybe some of them don’t. I would encourage you to find what works best for you, find what makes you feel rested and what helps you reset mentally, physically, and emotionally.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the whirlwind of life — to get sucked into obligations and commitments and occasions. But let’s remember that in order to help and serve others, we also have to help and serve ourselves. And part of helping and serving ourselves includes giving our bodies the time they need and crave.

Let’s do it! Let’s do nothing. Let’s rest.

It Takes A Village: On Finding Support & Community

It takes a village.

This is a common theme I believe in and swear by and state often.

I would not be where I am today (feeling healthy and whole and happy) without my village. It’s a village made of home group members, family, baristas, climbers, coworkers, and bloggers. It’s a village of wonderful folks who have cheered me on and invested in my mental health and spoken kind words to me.

Here’s what I believe:

I believe a community of supporters and cheerleaders can empower and enlighten and encourage you. I believe in the importance of lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. I believe comparison is nasty and individualism is beautiful. I believe loving others helps you learn to love yourself.

It took me a while to find my village.

The first few months and even year or so back in Dallas were lonely and isolating. I was struggling with severe depression and I kept to myself. I was insecure and anxious and devastated. I didn’t practice self-care and I didn’t pursue friendships.

It was awful.

A couple years in I found a new church community, invested in climbing gear and a membership, and attended a blogger meetup. All of a sudden I was surrounded by like-minded believer, encouraging athletes, and inspirational creatives. It was a drastic change for the better.

The right village always stands behind your mental health and well-being.

This weekend I had plans of a night out on the town with my girl gang. We planned to dress up and eat fancy food and drink fancy drinks and listen to live music.

But I decided not to go. It was a hard decision and I genuinely wanted to see my friends, but the past few weeks have been stressful and packed and wild, and I just needed time to myself.

So I stayed home, cuddled my dog, and got dumplings delivered to my door. I took a nap and I still went to bed early. I listened to music and watched Kim’s Convenience. It was a restful, easy, peaceful night. It was exactly what I needed.

And instead of shaming me, instead of calling me a flake or talking down to me, my friends encouraged me and offered to pray for me. They affirmed me in taking care of myself and they offered a listening ear and virtual hugs.

My village is amazing. They are kind and encouraging and supportive. They listen well and pray hard. They dream big for me, they hug me, they cry with me. They celebrate and rejoice with me. They mourn and grieve with me.

Do you have a village like that? Because if you don’t, I encourage you to find one. I encourage you to pursue the right people and right relationships. You won’t regret it, I guarantee.

Healing: The Journey, Not The Final Destination

Healing is a process.

If there is anything bipolar has taught me, it is that healing is a process and a journey. There is no specific destination, no specific time and date that we are fully healed–not in my experience, at least.

When I look back five years ago to my diagnosis, I was devastated and confused and hurt. I did not understand what was happening and I faced severe depression and anxiety.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I feel encouraged and excited and whole. These years have been full of bliss and peace, they have been practically depression-free.

But I would not consider myself fully healed.

Even though I have come a long way from 2016, I still experience down days and anxious moments. I still feel over-exhausted and run myself thin. I still have to regularly assess my needs and habits and adjust them as needed.

My gut response is frustration and confusion, “Why don’t I ultimately and forever feel better? When will I be fully healed?” But when I think about my mental health journey, I realize it’s been just that: a journey. And with journeys, although sometimes there are final destinations, many times they are just an ongoing process of learning and discovering.

Honestly, I don’t want it any other way.

This journey mindset reminds me to learn and discover and work toward healing. It gives me hope and joy and pushes me forward. If there was a final destination, I would be wondering why I haven’t arrived by now. I’d be wondering when my emotional and mental fulfillment would finally come.

So if you have been hurting or lost or upset for a while now, if you feel like you’re running thing or scrambling for hope, I would like to offer you this bit of wisdom: healing is a process, a journey. You are doing a great job as you chug along and do your best. I’m proud of you and I’m rooting you on!

Five Years Of Bipolar: On More To Come

Five years ago, on March 18, 2016, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This diagnosis came after a very serious manic episode that resulted in a hospitalization. It came after a week of insomnia and scattered thoughts and concerning ramblings.

Every year when March 18 rolls around, I pause and reflect. I stop and think about how my life has changed. Before my diagnosis, I was living in Nashville, a new city that I was growing to call home. Before my diagnosis, I was on the path to work in the nonprofit field. Before my diagnosis, I struggled with pride and ego and thought I had my entire life together.

For the longest time after I was diagnosed, especially during the thick of devastating depression, I could not help but always be aware of my diagnosis. My mood, plans, and friendships changed. My life changed. I could not help but mourn and grieve the life I used to know and fear what was to come.

When I built new friendships, I feared coming out as bipolar and wondering how they would respond. When I started to think about law school, I feared how bipolar would affect my studying. When I considered dating, I feared no one would want to be with someone who struggled so deeply.

But these days, my diagnosis is not at the forefront of my mind.

My mind is much more occupied with other things. When I build new friendships, I want to know how to invest and love that person deeply. When I look back at law school, I am thankful for what it was when it was, and how my mental illness did not affect my studying. When I consider dating someone, I am prayerful about opening up about my illness, and no longer live in fear.

Getting to where I am today–embracing my illness and sharing my journey–did not come easy. It took time and energy and tears and therapy. It took medication and emotional support and prayer. But here I am today, thankful for where I am and how I’m built, thankful for how I got here and eagerly looking forward to where I will be.

My disorder has taught me there is always more to come.

When I was first diagnosed, I feared my life was over: that I would lose all of my friends, that I’d never fall in love, and I would not be able to fully function again.

But that was hardly the case. The first couple of years were tough and excruciating and painful. The first couple of years were filled with devastating depression and hopeless thoughts and extreme anxiety.

But there was more to come. The past couple of years have been lovely and life-giving and liberating. They have been encouraging and beautiful and wonderful.

I never thought I would have a job. I never thought I would be able to handle it. I never thought I would get into law school. I never thought I would mentally be able to manage the workload. I never thought I’d fall in love, make new friends, enjoy living in Dallas.

But I did! And I’m glad!

I’m glad that Jesus Man loves me. I’m glad that he provides a path for me. I’m glad he hasn’t left me despite my changing moods and fickle heart.

I’m glad that law school happened, even though I didn’t finish. I’m glad to work at Summit and cultivate community there. I’m glad to make new friends and keep the old.

Dear Reader & Friend,

Whatever you are going through now, whether you are at the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I hope you know there is always more to come. There is always goodness and hope and joy around the corner.

My mental health journey proves this to be true. If you are well, be glad in it. If you are struggling, know there is hope.

I’m rooting for you!

2020: A Year In Review

It was a weird and hard year to say the least.

Honestly, that is a major understatement: it was a wild, wacky, devastating, life-changing, year. From start to finish, it was a long twelve months.

This was the year of COVID-19 and heightened systemic racism, but it was also the year I started law school and became a dog mom. This year I wrestled with singleness, but also gained wonderful friendships. This year I was out of a job for nearly two months, but I eventually returned to the climbing gym–a job I absolutely love!

This year I was reminded of the intermingling between joy and sorrow, love and loss, mountains and valleys. I was reminded Jesus is good and loyal and loving toward us no matter our struggles, battles, or hardships. I was reminded that giving while we grieve helps even while we hurt.

2020 had its highs:

  • Getting into and starting law school!–the journey to becoming an attorney has been filled with ups and downs, but I am so grateful that I committed to pursuing this dream.
  • Becoming a dog mom!–my sweet pup Jack has changed my life for the better–his unconditional love and never-ending cuddles fill up my heart.
  • Learning how to lead climb– and continuing to practice this special type of climbing. Saying no to fear and yes to bravery and yes to trying new and hard things!
  • Celebrating one year on desk at Summit–a job I enjoy and excel at and love! And landing a promotion over the summer was a wonderful surprise.

2020 had its lows:

  • Getting rejected by plenty of law schools (but ultimately winding up at the one that was best for me was a high).
  • Moving back home–I love my family and am grateful for their generosity, but I miss my alone time and being messy! Hehe.
  • Coping with systemic racism–I live a very privileged and blessed life, but I know that is not the case for every American (or person, for that matter). It’s been a learning and growing and mourning process, it’s been an eye-opener to consider my colored friends and their daily struggles and hardships.
  • Surviving COVID-19–just like everyone else, it’s been a hard and life-changing year: having to adapt to wearing a mask everywhere, to staying at home as much as possible, to taking virtual classes.

Despite this weird year, I feel blessed.

I feel blessed to have made new friends at the gym and welcomed so many new faces into our climbing community. I feel blessed to have built new relationships, but kept the life-giving ones. I feel blessed to have consistency in my life: with Jesus, with my family, with my well mood.

I feel blessed to have learned and grown and refined who I am. I feel blessed to have loved and lost. I feel blessed to have grown in strength and independence during a year of singleness. I feel blessed to have continued writing stories and sharing my life and learning more about content creation.

It’s been an odd and life-changing year, but I am grateful and thankful and happy and whole! I hope that despite the lows and recognizing the highs, you feel grateful and thankful and happy and whole, too!

But if you do not, I hope you know you are not alone in sadness and struggles. You are loved, you are treasured, you are a delight in the Lord’s eyes. Go in peace and love, go in grace and mercy, and may you have a better 2021.

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!

Slow & Steady: On Resting Well

CommSandwichLife is different now.

Even as I go back to work at my climbing gym, my life has looked drastically different than it did just a couple months ago. And I have a feeling yours is different, too.

Remember the moral of the story about the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race? Well if life was a race right now, I would definitely be winning. And maybe you would be winning, too.

I’m not used to slow and steady.

My life is typically the opposite: fast and unpredictable, busy and spontaneous, constantly moving, constantly changing. But these days, whether I like it or not, life is slow and steady–and it probably will be for a while, even after COVID calms down.

Pre-COVID, my life was a lot of leaving the house at 8 a.m., going to my job, going to my other job, and getting home at 11 p.m. And on days when I didn’t work, it was a lot of running around, seeing people, making friends, planning trips, crashing on my bed in the wee hours of the night.

I’m learning how to rest, and how to rest well.

Rest for me can be a lot of things: emotional, physical, spiritual. When I need emotional rest, I like to talk to a friend or journal. When I need physical rest, I like to nap or simply lay down for a bit. When I need spiritual rest, I spend time alone with God and read scripture or pray.

Resting well means being intentional about seeking it out, making time for it in my everyday life. Resting well means saying “no” to phoning friends, or leaving a video call game night early. Resting well means waking early just so I can have an extra slow morning with Jesus, drinking coffee and opening up the Word.

Resting well means assessing my needs and what I am lacking, and taking steps to meet those needs. Resting well means valuing this alone time, this me-space because I know when everything goes back to normal, it will be harder to find this time to myself.

I have a few tips for resting well:

  1. Assess your needs: ask yourself what you type of rest you need–emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
  2. Consider how to meet those needs: when you have identified what form of rest you need, then think about how to meet those needs. Is it by prayer and meditation? Is it by sleep? Is it by saying “no” to others, just to say “yes” to self-care?
  3. Follow through: it is easy to assess and consider without following through. It is easy to ignore your needs and instead pursue your wants. But when we follow through, we are giving our body, mind, and soul the nourishment and attention they need.

It’s important to rest.

It just is. Our bodies, minds, and souls need it. Our spirit craves it. Our eyes love it. Even though things are slowly starting to open up and we are beginning to have some sense of normalcy, I want to prioritize rest more than I did pre-COVID.

It’s important for me, it’s important for you. Let’s rest and rest well, friends.

 

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.

Be Kind To Your Mind: Three Takeaways On Wellness

Bipolar disorder is no joke.

I was diagnosed three(+) years ago, and it’s rocked my world in ways that I could have never imagined, in ways that are hard for me to express and put words to. But even during periods that are down and low, I realize that having mental health struggles has taught me so much and helped me grow immensely.

Even though life would be much easier without facing bipolar depression and anxiety, I am thankful for the lessons it has taught me about mental health and wellness. I am thankful how it has pushed and stretched me in ways that make me better. Here are some of my top takeaways on wellness that bipolar has taught me:

1. Self-love isn’t selfish.

I used to think taking care of myself was overrated and unimportant. I thought taking care of myself meant I couldn’t care for others, and that people would see me as selfish and self-centered.

After pursuing holistic wellness, after taking healthy eating and regular exercise and much-needed therapy seriously, I realize I was wrong. My community has surrounded and encouraged me in my self-care endeavors. In order to fully love and serve others, I must take care of myself first.

2. It’s important to be kind to your mind.

As someone who loves (and is slightly addicted) to social media, it’s easy for me to buy into the idea that beauty is more important than brains. It’s easy for me to see these Insta-models and gorgeous influencers and think to myself, “They have it all. They have everything I want.”

I do believe it’s important to be able to present yourself well. But it’s also important to take care of your mind, to seek holistic wellness by taking emotional and spiritual health seriously, too.

Ways I am kind to my mind include: going outside, having slow Sunday mornings, spending time in the Word, rock climbing, surrounding myself with people who love me well, etc., etc.

3. Bad days happen — to everyone.

During my first year of bipolar disorder, my moods were all over the place. The good days were mostly OK, but the bad days were extremely awful. The bad days also outnumbered the good ones, which were few and far between.

Now when I’m on a streak of good days, I feel insecure about even the tiniest inkling of feeling off. I’m afraid that the off days will turn into bad days and the bad days will turn into dark, depressed days.

But it turns out that everyone has bad days, including and especially those who have bipolar, yet we overcome them all the time. Even the worst of days only last one day each (that’s a mere 24 hours) and then we can go to sleep, wake up and handle the next day as it comes.