Planting seeds

planting-seeds
planting-seeds

After Friday’s meeting about This Is My Brave, I felt like a kid during the December count-down to Christmas. Only I don’t want to count down, I just want to get to the big celebration already.

I haven’t stopped thinking about the outcome of the meeting all weekend. I’m giddy with the anticipation of what could happen and at the same time I find myself asking how I got so damn lucky for this all to be happening and how long is it actually going to take?

The truth is, I’m terrible at anticipation. When something exciting is going to happen, I wish it would just happen already. Why the wait? At age eight I have a distinct memory of convincing my brother to wait up with me for Santa on Christmas Eve and we both fell asleep at the top of the stairs. Sadly for us, no glimpse of the fat man in the red suit was had that night.

Impatience runs heavy throughout my blood and I have yet to find a way to dilute it. When I start a project, I tend to envision it completely finished in my head and then wonder why it takes so long to get to the end result as I trudge along on the path to the finish line.

In the summertime, I scoff at my husband’s green thumb and patient hand as he tends to our deck garden. “It’s so much easier to buy the produce at our local CSA farm than to grow it from seeds!” I complain. And yet, he takes care of those plants every day and by the end of July and beginning of August we can hardly keep up with the harvest. I sometimes wish his patience would rub off on me, but then, at the same time I fear the loss of my intense drive if I were to acquire a more restrained, laid-back approach to life.

I’m coming around though. Things have been changing for me lately. I’m learning and growing. I’m realizing that the journey to these milestones in our lives which we build up in our heads - the time it takes us to actually get there - is the real treasure. {Thank you to Jeff Goins for his book, The In-between, which helped shed light on this concept for me.}

“Learning to live in this tension, to be content in these moments of waiting, may be our greatest struggle — and our greatest opportunity to grow.” - Jeff Goins, Author

And so I’m learning to slow down the video reel of my life and steal virtual snapshots in my head of the highlights I want to remember. And when my memory fails me, there’s always my Instagram feed to scroll through.

Little by little, I’m becoming more aware of the important things in my life. The people I meet who share my passion for making a difference, the precious time I spend with family and friends, and the self-care I need to re-charge my batteries. And every day I’m taking time to savor the changes I’m going through to accomplish my dreams. Dreams that if you asked me six months ago, I didn’t know I had.

With the help of my therapist, I’ve recently realized the answer to my own question of how I became so lucky with the success so far of This Is My Brave: planting seeds.

We all know plants and flowers start out as seeds that need water and sunlight and tender loving care to grow.

Along the journey to build This Is My Brave into the theater experience we’re expecting it to be, I’ve been planting seeds. And friends have helped plant them too. We’ve watered them. These itty bitty seeds, these tiny slivers of ideas, have started to poke through the surface of the soil, reaching out for the warm sunlight to help them grow of the cold ground.

And they’re growing. Man, are these seeds growing.

The Stretch of This Is My Brave

Brave-bracelet-pic

Eight years ago this Christmas my life changed forever. I didn't realize it at the time, nor did my family and friends, but it was a beginning of a new chapter. After the shock of it all, there were tears, there was the grieving of the life I left behind, and there was a whole lot of learning ahead of us.

I've always been a writer, this I knew. But never did I think that writing would be the one thing that would help me recover from a mental illness. It would be through writing that I would find my brave.

My blog began as an anonymous online place for me to write about what it was like to be a mom living with bipolar disorder. I found my voice as a mental health advocate only six months ago and I’m now in the midst of catapulting stories of inspiration and hope from people who live with mental illness into the spotlight to change society’s perception of mental illness. It’s a little project called This Is My Brave.

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” - Maya Angelou

 

At thirty-four, I reached a point in my life where I didn’t want to regret not sharing my story. From vivid descriptions of my periods of extreme mania to the crushing reality of not being able to get out of bed during my year-long battle with depression and anxiety when I was first diagnosed, these stories were pacing my brain as if they were caged animals, desperate to be let out. And so my blog became a place where I released those memories of my story for whoever was on the other side of the Internet to read. My hope was that they found comfort in knowing they weren’t alone.

Talking about my illness and the struggles I had to overcome to get where I am today has not only been therapeutic, it’s also shown me that people are listening. People trust me to read their stories sent through emails which describe the pain and anguish they’re going through.

Then they thank me for my honesty and my ability to speak out for them since they’re not ready or able to:

"Thank you again for your blog and being brave enough to speak up about your experiences. I don't have many opportunities to talk about it in my daily life and interactions with other people.  It's just not something that comes up in casual conversation, but it is constantly on my mind." - S.H. via email

“Thank you for all that you do to advocate for mental illness. You are truly a brave and strong role model to me, as I'm nowhere near the level of acceptance or balance that you are. Anyway, I just wanted to send you my thanks and cheer you on.” - C.K. via email

"I'm in a unique position in that we recently moved here and I haven't known my friends here that long. Given all the misunderstandings out there about bipolar disorder, it is hard to know if they will get it or be afraid. I'm sure you understand. Hopefully, gradually, I can open up in a way that will educate them and not scare them. That's the challenge, isn't it? That's why we need a movement as you say!" - L.C. via email

Becoming an advocate and starting up this show is having an impact on people. People I haven't even met yet, but hope to someday. And it's not only people who find my blog via a random Google search who write to me, it's also friends of friends who stop me during my day-to-day activities to say, "Hey, what you're doing is really cool." And it's the texts and calls from my close friends who are telling me how proud they are of me.

I can't tell you how good that all makes me feel.

But this show isn't just about my story. This theater experience will be a wake-up call to everyone out there. It's a chance for those of us who know what it feels like to live with mental illness to open up and not be ashamed.

By coming together, we build strength by our numbers. And when we find the courage to share our stories, we propel a movement forward.

It starts with one person who is brave enough to share, who inspires others to share, which in turn inspires the world to change.

This past Sunday, our Kickstarter project for This Is My Brave reached its funding goal of $6,500. Because we recognize how important this show is to so many people, we've set a stretch goal of $10,000 and we now have 8 days left to reach it. With the additional funding we'll be able to extend our reach beyond just the one show. We'll be able to take our stories of hope and inspiration further. But we can only do it with your help.

Thank you so much to our incredible backers who have pledged and shared and supported us so graciously along this journey. With a week and a day left, we're hoping to reach further with the help of those who believe in this vision.

Click HERE to view our project on Kickstarter and share the info with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you so much for your support!

Why I Declare My Goals

 1493334632_45256382eePhoto Credit: shirishbendre via Compfight cc

Back in June, my husband and I went on vacation with our friends to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversaries. One night at dinner, Tim asked us go around the table and share our goals out loud. Studies have proven that when you declare your goals, the act of simply vocalizing them to people, you have a much higher probability of actually reaching them.

I used to love goal-setting, but had fallen out of the habit since leaving the corporate world to become a stay-at-home-work-from-home-mom.

Ten years ago, in my career as an agency recruiter, I witnessed the power of setting goals. I’d talk about them to my boss and colleagues, and would work my tail off to attain them, seeing the direct results of my tireless dedication displayed on reports each week, month, and year of sales numbers.

These days, I am my own boss. There is no promise of a paycheck for the advocacy work I’m doing. Only the pure sense of accomplishing something that will hopefully help other people on their journey to recovery.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” - William James

Which is why I am so thankful to Tim for putting us up to the challenge of declaring our goals. I had said I wanted to write an e-book before the end of the year and self-publish it to be able to offer it for free on my website, but also to sell it on Amazon to reach people who might not have heard of my blog yet but found me via searching for books on mental health.

I’ve accomplished two of the three parts of that complex goal. The book is written and is available by signing up for my blog newsletter (which I haven’t yet officially launched - another goal in the works!), and it’s also available via the This Is My Brave website by signing up for the newsletter which will keep people informed of the progress of the show.

I hope to finish the process of self-publishing it to an online distribution channel (most likely Amazon, but I’m researching other avenues as well) by the end of November.

Right now I’m focusing on another recent goal that came to life: creating a Kickstarter campaign to fund our show, This Is My Brave. We have until November 15th to raise $6,500 which will be used to create the most inspiring, thought-provoking, entertaining show about mental illness the public has ever been invited to. If the show gets funded, we’ll have the capability of not only putting it on live in the Washington, DC area, but also reaching countless others by sharing the video of the performances after the initial debut.

Because of goals my life has meaning. No goal is too big. Take small steps and you’ll reach your dreams.

Why-I-Declare-My-Goals

 

What goals are you working on? Shout them out in the comments and create some accountability. I'll support you and cheer you on!

Starting Over

Starting-OverThe show will go on in DC this coming May, 2014. I'm simply taking some time to figure out where to go from here, as my partnership unfortunately did not work out due to our vastly different work styles. I have an incredible team surrounding me here in Virginia and I know that with all the hard work and passion that is going into this project, it most certainly will be a success. I may have failed at a partnership, but I will not fail at executing my vision for this show.

I envision this show to become a community of people coming together to embrace mental illness so as not to let it define them, but to propel a movement forward. A movement built on the belief that those of us living with mental illnesses are real people who simply need help. By coming together as a supportive society which fights for mental health services and programs, we will

change and save lives.

Please follow along here, and/or via Instagram and Twitter for updates as they become available. For now, if you're local to the DC metro area, or you're interested in coming in from out of town to see the show, mark your calendar for the weekend of May 17 & 18, 2014.

Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you at the show!