Trusting My Sacred Scared

photo One of my favorite writers posted a new blog this week about being afraid in life and yet going for what we want anyway, just showing up. She talked about how if we all waited until we were all shiny and perfect and ready, we’d be waiting for eternity. No one is flawless, we’re all messy and complicated, she goes on to say. And if we could all start opening up and talking about what scares us the most, the thing we’re afraid to admit out loud because we’re scared it would make us unloveable, if we do this, we reveal our humanity to the world. When those around us see us taking off our armour, we hear them breathe an audible sigh of relief, and instead of living a life in fear, we can face them bravely together. Because, Love Wins.

I have so many fears. I wrote some of them out last summer in a post I titled: The Truth About Living Openly With Bipolar Disorder. I was scared to hit publish on that post, but I’m glad I did. Because people related to it. They saw me showing my messy, imperfect life and they got it because theirs is messy and imperfect, too.

Now, seven months later, those same fears are all still here, only now it seems as if they’ve multiplied like bacteria in a petri dish.

Lately it feels like not only am I worrying about whether I made the right decision, at the right time, to open up about living with a mental illness, I also worry about whether the show will be a smashing success or a big, fat flop. {I’m banking on the huge success, especially since I know some of the brilliant, talented individuals signed up for auditions, but still, the fear creeps into the back of my mind when I’m not having a confident day.} I’m scared that our petition to convert This Is My Brave, LLC to This Is My Brave - the Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit will fall through, and even if it does work out, how will I figure out the grant-writing process having never done it before and will I ever be able to make a living out of my passion for mental health advocacy work so that I can contribute financially to our family? I am also intimidated by hard-core activists who might say that what I’m doing with the show is just a song-and-dance and it will never make a difference to the state of mental health programs in our country.

Man, hitting publish on this one is going to be incredibly unnerving.

I hate that I have these fears. On a good day, they barely whisper. But on a day when I can’t catch a break, it’s as if they are taunting me just to see if they can get a rise out of me. They choke me and sometimes cause me to worry so much I'm paralyzed with fear and in turn, nothing gets done and I stress even more about my ability to pull this off.

The thing is, even though these fears remain, I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I know in my heart that I’m doing the right thing with my life. The emails I receive from people who have been touched by my writing drive me to keep going. To keep putting one foot in front of the other and to keep tapping on my keyboard each week. And this show/non-profit organization/community of people who are supporting each other through living with a mental illness, they are my tribe, my flock. I want them to know that I love them just the way they are and that they make me feel less alone and I hope I do the same for them. We’re all in this together and it feels so much better than the loneliness of hiding from what we’re afraid of.

Do you know the biggest lesson I’ve learned through this process of being scared and vulnerable and talking about my fears and my messy life openly? I’ve learned to trust my gut. That place in the middle which you can only sense when you’re super quiet and listening really, really closely, with intention to find purpose. I can feel it in my bones that I’m meant to do this and it brings me peace, no matter how loud my fears are on a particular day.

I’ve experienced what I have because I was meant to come out on the other side so that others can find hope. I truly believe this. So what if I have no idea what I’m doing? So what if I make mistakes along the way? These days I’m able to find comfort in the fact that I’m trusting the world with my messy, beautiful life.


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A guest post from Mary: Almost Together

I connected with Mary through the power of blogging and social media, and am so excited to share her story with you today. She’s talking about her truth, and my hope is that you’ll listen.



Hi all! My name is Mary Leaphart and Jennifer has been incredibly kind to let me share a bit of my story with you. I am 37 and a single mother to a 7-year-old rescue dog named KC. She is my baby as I do not have any non-furry kids! I taught high school math for about 11 years and now write curriculum, working mostly from home in order to maintain a lifestyle that helps keep my mental health in check.

See, when I was in college, my bipolar disorder showed up. It would be twenty years before I knew what to call it. But trust me; this disease did not need a name to wreak total havoc in my life. And even though I didn’t have a name for it yet I had a lot of labels I used to describe it – despair, self-loathing, euphoria, deceit, laziness, hopelessness, ecstasy, crazy…you get the picture. I could remember the strength, joy and fearlessness I had know as a child, but now all of a sudden I could not conjure it again, no matter how hard I tried. I thought I had lost myself forever.

I know I don’t have to tell you, but bipolar is brutal – it will rip your guts out, tear you to shreds, bring you to your knees and somehow convince you that you were the one to blame for it all. But of course, by the very nature of the disease it will also take me to some of the highest heights I could ever imagine. The blessing and the curse of my bipolar is that it is type 2 – meaning that my highs have never gotten high enough for me to do something to get hospitalized. Oh, but I fantasize about it – driving my car into a guardrail. Not enough to kill me, but just enough to give me a reason to lie in a hospital bed for months. A reason to not have to work so hard to live the life that everyone around me seems to manage so easily. A reason to get put in a hospital where someone might finally be able to “fix” me.

Of course, there is no fixing bipolar but there is a happy “ending” to this story. It started when a very wise, very dear friend of mine finally had the courage to look me in the eye and tell me that I needed real help. She brought me to her house for dinner and literally held my hand while I called my first therapist. I was terrified.

Finally, in 2007, I found the right doctor for me and got my diagnosis and began the long and painful journey to find the right medication for me. I spent the next two years swimming through a sea of medications trying to find just the right cocktail. It took time, and a great deal of hard work, but I did eventually find the right combination and most importantly, found an amazing therapist who I visit religiously every two weeks.

Throughout my journey with bipolar, I have always gone back to my music, my singing, as a way to help me cope. I connect with the music in a very deep way and am able to express feelings that I am not normally able to talk about in day to day conversations. Once I realized that, I discovered that I might have a very unique way to share my story.

And hence, Almost Together, was born. For the last year I have been putting together a cabaret show about my life with bipolar disorder. I use songs from all different eras and genres that have touched my soul and short monologues between to weave the story of my journey. This July, I am honored to be able to perform my show in the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC.

As I look back through history and see how change has happened, how stigmas have been removed, how stereotypes have been lifted – I see that most change came through simply talking. Talking about what matters most. And what matters most to me is survival – my ability to live a full and abundant life with bipolar disorder. And I want to share that story with everyone who needs to hear it.

If you are local to the area, I hope that you will be able to come to the show. I believe that it will be a show that resonates in some way with everyone and I also believe that it will be a true celebration of what life can be for each of us. You can find all the information you need about dates, locations and tickets at:

I hope to meet many of you there and please feel free to connect with me before then –

Blessings and strength to each of you along your journey!



Mary knows she still is, and always will be, on the road to recovery, but feels that she’s come so far in the last several years to realize that now is finally time to share her story in big way. She’s opening up about the truth - not the misconception, not the stigma, not the stereotype - but the raw truth of life with a mental illness.

I’m so thankful to have met Mary online and look forward to giving her a hug after one of her shows next month.  If you’re near DC, or are in the area in mid-July, I hope you will consider supporting Mary and the movement to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by attending her show.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

An honest letter to my babies

July 12, 2012

To my dear Mister Man and Sweet Pea,

Been thinking about writing a letter like this to you two for awhile now. Given the fact that you both conked out early tonight and I got my workout finished before 9pm, now is as good a time as ever.

These past four years with the two of you in our life, have been the best (and most challenging) years your Daddy and I have ever experienced, and they have not passed without some majorly scary ups and downs. When I say "ups", I really mean manic. My "downs" were before you both were born.

You see, your mommy has Bipolar Disorder.

It's something I probably won't explain to you until you are much older. You don't see me take my medication every day, but you have been with me to see my psychiatrist. You both just love the toys she has there at her office, and now when I tell you that "Mommy has to go to the doctor," you always ask if you can play with the toys at the office. Last time I had to go "to the doctor" I was referring to my gynecologist and she only had a plastic uterus to play with which wasn't as fun, was it?

Right now my illness is mainly hidden from you, but there are times its characteristics creep out of me in the ways I sometimes respond to your behaviors. There are times when I may yell a little too loud, or in a nasty way complete with a scowl on my face. Maybe it's just part of being a little worn out from the whole Stay-At-Home-Mom thing, but I believe that my occasional outbursts have something to do with my condition. My patience is so thin you could poke a hole in it with a feather. Not all the times, but sometimes. Especially when it's the week before my period. Not fun. Not fun for anyone in this household.

Your Daddy and I have worked so hard together to manage this thing though. We're beating it, he and I. We're doing it together. He, by tolerating my moods and by hugging and holding me when I need the extra love and feeling of security only his arms can provide. And me, by taking my meds, seeing my doctor and therapist, and eating right and exercising.

Whenever I do have a moment where I lash out and am unkind to either of you, I immediately feel full of regret and wish I could go back 10 minutes in time to re-do what happened again so that I could handle the situation differently, more lovingly. But I guess that's kindof what parenting is all about; learning from our mistakes and doing things better next time.

I try to make up for any mean/sad/bigfatwettearsrollingdownthecheeks situations by smothering you with hugs and kisses after we've resolved whatever we were arguing about. In fact, I read an article recently online that said that kids need 12 hugs a day and I have started to work hard to exceed that with each of you. I feel so complete when I have your arms wrapped around me, and the funny thing about it is that when I ask one of you for a hug, the other usually immediately runs over and joins in and we have a group hug going on which is so special to me. Love, love, LOVE those moments. I crave more of them every day that goes by.

I love my time at home with you two and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I'm feeling nervous about going back to work next week, even though it is from home and it's only part-time, because it's going to take away from precious hours I spend with my loves. Mister Man, I may not get to sneak into your room at the end of naptime, when I see that you're just starting to stir on the monitor, to curl up with you and snuggle and take long whiffs of your hair and neck. Sweet Pea, I may not get to sing you "Twinkle, Twinkle" before naptime, and rock you until your sleepy eyelids start to drift closed. I'm hoping that by working my part-time hours right smack in the middle of the day that the only thing I'm going to be missing is naptime, but the more I think about it, the sadder I get because even when you don't sleep, Little Man, I still enjoy the quiet time we have together while your sister is snoozing. Even if I seem frustrated that you're awake because I'm not able to get my housework done. I secretly don't mind.

There is so much more I want to say about how I'm living with this illness every day and how I'll explain it all to you in the future, but this first installment of my letters to you both is just the beginning, just what is on my mind at this moment in time. How you both have made our family so much richer even in the midst of learning to cope with something as complicated and intense and draining as a mental illness. I am so incredibly thankful that your Daddy and I took the leap we did back in the fall of 2007 to start our family. I couldn't imagine us any other way now.

I love you both to the moon and back, and am loving watching you grow up more and more every day.

Try to slow down a little because it seems like it's going by just a smidge too fast. 'Kay?

Keep loving me back, even if we may have our tough days. The days when we yell at each other. The days when there may be tears. Because the good days far, far outweigh the bad ones. And they always will.

All my love and kisses,