Today marks 6 years blogging

beach sunrise {sunrise this morning, Bethany Beach, Delaware}

Today is my 6-year blogiversary. 

I still remember the day I decided to begin blogging about my story. I started a free Wordpress.com blog using a domain name I had purchased. I remember pausing before hitting "submit" on bipolarmomlife.com, thinking for a moment about the brand I was about to create. It was intentional. I wanted other moms out there, other families dealing with bipolar disorder and parenting, to know that they weren't alone and that it does get better. I wanted women to type "bipolar" and "mom" into Google and find me. That's how it all started.

Six years have felt like an instant. My son was only two and my daughter wasn't yet a year old when I started writing out the story of how bipolar had seemingly devastated my life. I was ready to begin writing my way through the pain of my past to heal myself. From my very first blog post:

Bipolar I is my diagnosis but I try not to let the label get to me too much. I definitely think about it on a daily basis, but I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of it anymore like I was back when I was first diagnosed. Sure, the stigma is still there, but it’s beginning to fade.

Each time I took to my laptop to tap out the thoughts and feelings swirling in my head from the memories of my struggle, I chipped away at the internal stigma that had attached itself to me when I was formally diagnosed with mental illness.

My blog was my safe, anonymous corner of the Internet for a year and a half. Friendships were forged from comments back and forth supporting each other's writing, validating each other's pain and progress. 

And then an opportunity arose which would change the course of my life. An editor from WhatToExpect.com found my blog and asked me to write for them. It was my first paid writing job, and she wanted me to use my voice as a parent living with mental illness. That was a huge turning point for me. It was when I made the decision to put my name and face on my writing. 

I knew that I'd never be able to make the impact on reducing stigma the way I wanted to until I put my true identity on my story.

So I took a risk. 

I worried about future employment. I wondered if people would turn away from me. I feared what I didn't know.

I know now there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

None of my fears came true.

If I wouldn't have taken the risk to open up about my bipolar disorder, I wouldn't be where I am today. The day I stopped hiding my mental illness was the start to living a richer, more authentic life. 

About five months after my first freelance article hit the internet with my byline {What Landed Mom in the Psych Ward was the link bait AOL.com used to tease the article, complete with our family photo}, I launched what would eventually become This Is My Brave, Inc. Only most people don't know that I failed first.

I first launched the concept with a woman I met at a writer's conference. She was lovely and we hit it off instantly, but after working on the idea for a few weeks together, we began to have intense creative differences. The idea was to create a show featuring people who struggled with mental health issues, to provide a creative platform for them to share and end the stigma. We called it, "Don't Call Me Crazy" but thankfully it didn't pan out. {Funny enough, there is now a Netflix series with the same name.}

A few weeks later, licking my wounds, I tried again. As fate would have it, I was introduced to Anne Marie Ames, the woman who would become my Co-Founder, at a mutual friend's party. Within a few months we had launched the concept on Kickstarter and the rest is history. This fall we're putting on our 31st show. 

The magic behind This Is My Brave is the lifesaving power of storytelling. It's seeing people who have endured so much pain reach a point in their life when they have some perspective. They are ready to use their voice. I've seen people transform from being a part of our shows and our organization. It's as if a physical weight has been lifted off their shoulders and they can finally breathe. It's freeing to be able to talk about the invisible parts of ourselves out loud. And it shows others they are not alone. That it does get better, and that we're all connected.

If it weren't for this blog, I don't know where I'd be right now. Thank you to everyone who has ever read, commented, shared. I appreciate your support more than you'll ever know. 

On relating to Kristen Bell's mental illness disclosure

Last week Kristen Bell became the latest Hollywood star to mention that she's not ashamed for taking medication for her anxiety and depression, and the news of her mental illness disclosure went viral. I'm grateful she used her fame to bring awareness to an issue that touches so many of us, but at the same time felt like I couldn't quite relate, even though I've been affected by the same disorders. Listen, I'm all for celebrities sharing their stories. They have platforms much, MUCH, bigger than mine, and the more people who open up, the better. The more attention we can draw to the cause, the better. The more we normalize mental illness, the better.

[embed]https://youtu.be/mYUQ_nlZgWE[/embed]

I guess I just can't really relate to a celebrity. I've never met one myself, although I'd imagine most of them are down to earth. They are human, too, after all. Albeit humans with seemingly endless streams of money, and access to practically any doctor they would ever need to see. They experience mental illness the same way the rest of the population does, only with privilege. Many of them receive the proper diagnosis, effective treatment, and manage their conditions successfully.

On the flip side, no matter how much wealth and access to care they have, some we lose to suicide, like Robin Williams.

Now let me back up for a moment and acknowledge the fact that when I experienced my most serious battles with my mental illness, it was partially my privilege which allowed me to be able to get well. I recognize this.

What I'm trying to say is that to me, when a celebrity goes on camera and talks about having gone through a mental health issue, it's not nearly as impactful as when regular people I meet through my advocacy work share their stories. It's also not the same as a celebrity figure who has made a commitment to fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness by continually sharing her story - the way Demi Lovato has. There's a big difference between mentioning the fact that you take medication for anxiety and depression, and making it part of your purpose in life to educate people.

Also, last time I checked Psychologists weren't licensed to prescribe medication.

When I started this blog my goal was to simply inspire one person not to give up. To let her know that there is life after a mental illness diagnosis and multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. That the months spent crying and sleeping and barely eating because you're so nauseous even the thought of toast turns your stomach, that all those months and maybe even years spent suffering could come to an end.

I truly believe finding other people's stories online helped me to find my recovery path. Which is why when I found the right time to begin writing out my own story, I went for it. I knew that being anonymous wasn't the answer. But at the time I felt a responsibility to my family when making the decision on whether or not to use my real name in my writing. My disclosure would affect them, too, after all.

Then, after eighteen months of blogging, I reached a point where my anonymous writing had reeled in a regular paid blogging gig for WhatToExpect.com, and I wasn't willing to go on without receiving recognition for my work. I wanted to do my part to stand up to stigma, and I knew the best way to do that was come out of the closet about my mental illness. So I did.

And none of my fears came true. The fear of losing friends, of being discriminated upon, of being looked down upon. None. Instead, the response was the complete opposite.

Which is why I am such a strong believer in the power of storytelling. Yes, I come from privilege. But in our This Is My Brave shows there are plenty of people who have come forward to share their stories and they didn't have the same access to care that I did. They still made it out of the darkness. Their stories are extraordinary.

The power behind sharing our stories lies in the ability to comfort others. In our country alone, one in five adults is living with a diagnosable mental illness. We are all affected by it, whether we realize this or not. Mental illness is mostly invisible, and because of both internal and external stigma, and the fear it instills in people, those suffering often times do not reach out for help. They feel isolated, like they are the only one who has ever dealt with that condition.

It's not true. When we share our stories openly, people suffering in silence realize they are not alone. And they see that if someone like them was able to get well, they can too.

Which brings me back to my point about celebrities. Celebrities are people just like you and me. They're human. But given the world they live in, my guess is that it's hard for an average American to relate to their stories.

I urge you to visit our This Is My Brave YouTube Channel where you can view over 100 true, personal stories of overcoming mental illness from regular, everyday people. Teachers, students, small business owners, stay-at-home-moms, community service workers, and the list goes on.

This month, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we have five all-new This Is My Brave shows on the schedule. Our Greenville, South Carolina show was this past Thursday night and it was incredible. Our Iowa City show is this coming Friday night, the third annual DC-area show is this Sunday. And finishing out the month on the same date, May 19th, are our Chicagoland and Denver shows. All our new shows will be added to our YouTube channel this summer.

Deciding to share your own struggle with mental illness is a personal choice. It's This Is My Brave's goal to inspire people to #LiveBrave which means when you're ready, and you find the right opportunity to share your experience with someone, whether privately or publicly, you will. Your ability to be brave will give the other person the comfort and solace they need to feel understood. We've seen it happen through our guest bloggers and our live show presentations. It's life-changing and extremely powerful.

Whether you get that feeling from a celebrity talking about her experience, or someone you know and love in your life, the point is that together we can dissolve the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing our stories.

LiveBraveIf you decide to #LiveBrave with us, we've designed an overlay you can add to your Facebook profile pic and Twitter profile pic. It's easy, simply follow the instructions here: http://twibbon.com/support/live-brave

 

What I Want You To Know on World Bipolar Day 2016

World Bipolar Day 2016Today is the third annual #WorldBipolarDay. This day is important to me because it is helping to open up and continue the conversation surrounding a mental illness that is misunderstood in our society - bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed over ten years ago. My world was turned upside down when I suffered two manic episodes in one month, each requiring hospitalizations. Soon thereafter, I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and spiraled into a severe year-long battle with depression and anxiety. I felt utterly alone, scared to talk to anyone about it outside my immediate family. My illness told me I was broken, worthless, and that I'd never get better. I believed it for over a year.

But it was lying.

I eventually found the right medication, and I did get better.

But then I got sick again when I was trying to protect my kids. I thought as their mom I knew better. I should have listened to the doctors.

Hindsight is 20/20 though, I had to learn the hard way. I don't regret my decisions. They brought me to where I am right now.

I'm no one special. I'm just a person who was handed a diagnosis, went through a fierce struggle, learned to accept it, and wasn't willing to allow society to intimidate me, judge me, and discriminate upon me for something that wasn't my fault.

I am playing the cards I was dealt, as my favorite author, Cheryl Strayed, has so wisely stated.

You don't have a right to the cards you think you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you're holding. - Cheryl Strayed

I share my story because I know there are people out there searching for stories of resilience right now. I know because ten years ago, I was one of them. If my story can help just one person understand that they can overcome bipolar disorder, than I've accomplished what I've set out to do.

Never give up. Reach out for help. Your story matters.

My favorite Bipolar Resources:

Remembering This Is My Brave's beginning

Remembering the BeginningI've been neglecting my little, teeny corner of the Internet. Not because I haven't thought about blogging, it's that making the time has been a challenge lately. But after yesterday's This Is My Brave (year 3!!) Cast party, I felt drawn back to this space. My favorite mug within arm's reach, emblazoned with my favorite photo of our inaugural cast, full of steaming hot peach tea. Headphones plugged into my laptop, the rhymes of Ed Sheeran keep me company as I click a button to Add New Post. This is where it all started.

It started with a decision to tell my story nearly five years ago. Even if I told it without my name attached, I still made the choice to write about my experience living with bipolar disorder. I typed out the trauma of succumbing to two manic episodes in one month. I wrote about things like exercise and journaling that were helpful to me in finding a path to recovery amid the chaos of receiving a diagnosis.

IMG_3985I remember contemplating that I would name the blog, before those posts were even published, eventually settling on "Bipolar Mom Life" because I wanted to be searchable.

I remember feeling the wave of mental health advocacy begin to swell. I wanted to climb on, to be part of the monumental tidal wave of brave individuals who were working to drown stigma through their openness. So I grabbed my proverbial surfboard and started paddling.

Years of writing several posts a week, then writing for other websites, to landing my first paid writing gig. One thing led to another and then to another. This little blog became the catalyst for something I dreamt about but would never fully appreciate until it actually happened.

So, how did it happen? This Is My Brave has become what it is today because of the support that has emerged from the shadows. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, strangers. So many people ready to put their silence behind them. From extreme darkness comes the brightest lights, we've seen it time and time again through our shows. Our trials, trauma, and pain have taught us we are stronger than our struggles. We are compassionate souls, brave because we want to impact change. This Is My Brave is alive because in our communities everywhere live storytellers who aren't afraid to show their scars.

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We only had to provide the opportunity for them to share.

I may have made the decision to start a blog, but This Is My Brave wouldn't have ever taken off if it weren't for people believing in its mission, to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing our true, personal stories through poetry, music and essay, and stepping up onto the stage.

Our stories are coming together in a huge tsunami which is threatening to drown out the concept of stigma all together.

I may have had my doubts that this project would be able to make the impact I hoped it would, but those insecurities have been silenced. Every single time we put the call out for storytellers they bring it. Our job of casting becomes harder each year.

IMG_3998Through vivid imagery you feel their hearts bleed out onto the pages. You also learn how they made it through the minefield of mental illness. Their resilience warms your heart and in the end you're glowing with pride for everything they've become. And that they've decided to selflessly share their strength with the world. This is the magic of This Is My Brave.

I hope you'll come see a show this May. We'll be in Greenville, South Carolina; Iowa City, Iowa; Arlington, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Valparaiso, Indiana. Tickets are on sale now.

Come and #LiveBrave with us.

I Climb for You

Climb Out of the Darkness Postpartum Progress PPD  

This is for the mom who emailed me three days ago asking for advice. A mom with two babies under two who thought she might have PPD, but didn’t know what to do.

You can get through this. You can climb out of the darkness.

I know it doesn’t feel like you can right now. I remember what it felt like.

Even though my type of bipolar leans towards manic episodes, I was pulled down by the darkness for an entire year. It almost suffocated me.

That year is a fuzzy mark on my memory, blurred out by the muted gray which sucked the life out of my world. Most nights I’d fall asleep sobbing, my cheek hot against the damp pillow. Food lost it’s appeal because my anxiety had burned my taste buds along with my desire to eat. The thought of doing anything - even taking a shower - was horribly overwhelming. I felt like life was just too uncomfortable, too painful. I’d climb into bed at night dreading the next day which would inevitably greet me, no matter how much I’d wish I wouldn’t wake up.

I don’t like to re-live those feelings, but they are engrained in my memory.

I’m glad they’re there to remind me of how far I’ve come. They live in me for a reason. So I can tell you to not give up. There are better days ahead. I promise.

With support, and proper treatment, you can and will get well.

I climb for you.

We emailed back and forth and you made that appointment. It’s your first step towards beating this. I’m so proud of you.

Promise me you won’t give up. This isn’t going to be easy. But by reaching out, just like you did when you found my blog, you can find more women who have overcome PPD. You will too.

I climb for you.

Having kids has definitely been the most challenging journey I’ve ever embarked on. Just when you think you have one phase figured out, they’re onto the next. Our little people watch us so closely, learning from the person who brought them into this world. Wait until they get older and you get to tell them all about how you beat this monster. They’re going to be so proud of you, mama. Beaming proud.

I want you to know that I’m pulling for you, and on Saturday, I climb for you. I’m right here beside you, cheering on each step, as you climb your way up to the summit.

*****

This Saturday, June 20th, on the longest day of the year, I'll be participating in Postpartum Progress' 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness fundraiser. It's the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, postpartum bipolar disorder, and pregnancy depression and anxiety. We're aiming to exceed our goal of raising $200,000 for programs which support women and their families so they can overcome these illnesses. I hope you'll consider donating to this important cause.

Making the Invisible Visible

making-invisible-visiblePhoto Credit: Mylla More via Compfight cc

I’ve always been the type of person who wanted to make the invisible visible. It’s just in my nature. Engrained in my being. A part of who I am. I am someone who wants to share where I’ve been so that others can learn and grow, the same way I desperately want to hear what others have gleaned from their life experiences. I crave this deep, intimate knowledge of people. When I open up to someone and they lean in and open up in response, I know I’ve found my people. Small talk makes my skin crawl.

When I meet someone for the first time though, small talk is inevitable. At first glance, no one would ever guess that I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, I’d never know if the person in front of me had ever been so depressed they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. So many of us live with these potentially, and often times, debilitating illnesses in our brains, and yet we present as perfectly capable, fully-functioning, regular old citizens going about our daily activities. Waking up, with or without incredible effort, making breakfast for ourselves and perhaps our family, getting everyone dressed and out the door to work and school, dinner, bedtime. Rinse, repeat.

We need to stop the facades and be honest and real with each other.

If we never make it past the small talk to really open up to a friend or neighbor about our depression, or our anxiety or our eating disorder or whatever it is that we’ve hid for so long because we were scared of being judged, then how would our friend ever be able to love us as who we are? It's hard to accept what we don’t know. What we don’t understand. What we don’t see.

I’ll give you an example.

One night, in early 2006, in the midst of the severe depression and anxiety I had been wrestling with since being diagnosed, I went out to dinner with my two best friends to celebrate a birthday. I don’t know how I managed to get myself up and out of bed, but it probably had something to do with the fact that we were going to my favorite restaurant {Sweetwater Tavern} and I must have been craving the salmon salad. Plus, my friend’s birthday.

K picked me up and we met M there. We had a nice meal, and the check arrived at the table to be paid at our convenience because they’re very efficient at Sweetwater. I can’t remember who paid the tab, but someone did or we split it, but it was settled, and we were just lingering there at the table, M and K finishing their drinks before leaving when it happened.

I had an anxiety attack. The normal buzz of the crowded restaurant which never used to bother me before suddenly made me want to run for the door. A wave of panic rushed up my legs and settled in my gut. I needed to get out of there.

“Are we done? Can we just go already?” I blurted out, not knowing what else to say, and not realizing how it would affect my friends.

They both stared at me for a second.

“What’s wrong with you?” M asked, frustration and confusion apparent in her tone. K shot me a look that seemed to ask, “Are you okay?” They had no idea.

I managed to squeak out something about being ready to go, apologizing for being so pushy, and they bought it. But I never did have the hard conversation. I don't blame them one bit for their reactions. They didn't know. It took me another year before I really tried to explain to them what was happening to me. What it felt like on the inside. I tried to explain the invisible.

I had plenty of reservations about revealing to the world that I’ve been living with bipolar disorder since my first manic break in December of 2005. You could say I was terrified. But it was also clear as day to me that the benefits of sharing my story were what made me feel good about my decision. Sure, there were the negatives. I may face discrimination in the future from people who don’t understand my condition or from those who may be afraid because of what they’ve seen in the media. But by standing up and speaking out in a positive, unique way, I hope to minimize any form of intolerance I may encounter in the future.

[Tweet "By combining our voices, we're more likely to be heard & understood. #ThisIsMyBrave"]

Which is why I am so proud of what is happening with This Is My Brave. We’ve come so far in seven short months. This week we announced our cast, and next week we’ll begin introducing them to the world so that you can see just how wonderful they are and why you need to come to the show in May. They’ll be up on stage, sharing a piece of their heart with you so that you can better understand their journey. Because at first glance, you’d never say to yourself, “Oh, she definitely spent a year battling agoraphobia, it’s obvious” or “You can tell he was arrested during a manic episode.”

These are invisible illnesses which we’re making visible because it’s time we shine a spotlight on mental illness. By bringing it into the light we illuminate the hope that lies in recovery so that no one who has been touched by a mental health issue has to feel alone.

We Need Universal Mental Health Screening for Women Having Babies

we-need-universal-mental-health-screening I experienced both a postpartum mood disorder (postpartum psychosis) and a perinatal psychiatric issue (a manic episode which led to psychosis) very early on in my second pregnancy. I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder two years before my husband and I decided to start a family, and yet I found limited support and information in my quest to have as healthy a pregnancy and postpartum experience as I could. When I think back to that time in my life, I strongly believe that if I had received better screening - particularly after my first pregnancy - much of the trauma and heartache of what I went through could have been avoided.

Before I experienced mental illness on a personal level, my ignorance of the various forms of psychiatric conditions caused me to judge people whose stories were covered in the media. I remember watching news coverage of the Andrea Yates trial thinking HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN? And then it happened to me seven years later. Thank God my outcome was drastically different.

Just this week a pregnant mother and her three children were rescued in Daytona Beach, after she drove the family minivan into the ocean. A family member had called police hours earlier to express concern over her strange behavior, including talk of demons.  On the 911 tapes, you can hear the sister request a well-being check because "she's like having psychosis or something."

This woman literally saved her sister's life, the lives of those three children and the life of her sister's unborn baby with that call for help.

They were lucky to have avoided an outcome similar to that of the Andrea Yates case. Simply because someone close to the person who was suffering took action.

Now it's our turn to take action. There is an urgent need for changes in the way we screen women during pregnancy and postpartum in order to stop incidents like these from ever occurring in the first place.

Maybe this woman's sister recognized what her family member was going through because of the increase of more open dialogue about women's mental health issues. I can feel the wave of mental health awareness gaining momentum and hope that very soon there will be less ignorance out there and more acceptance. Because together we can make a difference.

Which is why I support this important White House petition to create mandatory universal mental health screening for pregnant and postpartum women. Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth? Or that 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated?

We need change. We need to screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.

Recovery is possible - I am a perfect example of this. But wouldn't it be incredible if in the future we could catch cases like mine before they escalate? Before they lead to suffering and even death? No woman should have to suffer in silence because she's afraid to admit what she's thinking or feeling. We need to provide her with the chance to find recovery early. We need to recognize the signs and symptoms and take action.

Please take a moment to sign the petition: Every Mother, Every Time. Creating a WhiteHouse.gov account takes only a minute and there are simple tools to share the petition on Facebook and Twitter once you have submitted your signature.

This movement will save lives. We need 100,000 signatures to get the attention of the Obama Administration. Let's come together to make our voices heard on this critically important issue.

Every Mother, Every Time.

Tweet about the petition with the hashtag #EMET:

[Tweet "Universal mental health screening 4 every pregnant & postpartum woman http://ow.ly/uho8X. #EMET"]

Thank you for helping to spread the word.

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.

trusting-my-sacred-scared

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Planning the Future and Enjoying the Journey

planning-future-enjoying-journeyPhoto Credit: Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel via Compfight cc

It can be almost dizzying to have to plan for what's ahead, but yet keep your focus at the same time on the daily details that actually may make the future happen.

There is so much written lately about staying “in the moment” and how we need to remember to cherish the everyday little events that happen to us rather than spend all our time anticipating the next big thing: graduating college, getting married, buying a house, having kids, etc, etc. I even wrote recently about how the swift tick of the clock changed me when reflecting on my daughter’s hospitalization for Kawasaki disease.

I agree wholeheartedly with this concept of fully enjoying the time in our lives that falls in-between those major life events. But things also change when you’re planting seeds. You have to set long-term goals. Write strategic plans. Manage expectations of your backers.

Because success is on the line.

I’m starting to think like a real entrepreneur and I’m loving it.

So I write big goals. I check with experts in their respected fields. I make connection after connection.

There is a chance things won’t work out. There is a chance we could fail. But the only way to prove that chance wrong is to plan. To read. To talk it through. To set the bar high. To take the leap of faith because I believe in this project and its mission.

You know how I can tell This Is My Brave is a critically needed movement? Because people tell me every day.

And it’s the passion in their voice, the stories they share with me, the emotions they trust me with which whisper to me, “Keep going!” and "What you're doing is so important!" when my thoughts run away from me and threaten to bruise my confidence.

Every time I see an email pop up in my inbox from someone saying “I stumbled upon your blog and wanted to thank you,” my heart smiles. Because I’ve touched someone to the point that they took the time to write me an email and in it they tell me about how mental illness changed their life. I can’t even tell you how much this means to me.

Maybe it was a sibling, a child, a best friend, or a parent. Usually it is the person who is writing. Mental illness affected their life in a major way and they are relieved to find another brave soul who is open to talking about their experience. And they just happened to choose me.

Friends, the reason I created This Is My Brave is to encourage conversations - like the ones that happen in my inbox - to occur in communities everywhere. I want people to not have to be afraid of talking with their families, their friends, their neighbors, their religious leaders, about what it’s like to live with mental illness. To not be afraid to ask for help. The more people open up, the bigger the impact and the more lives we’ll save.

I want people to be helped by the sharing of personal stories. And we’re doing it in an energetic, eclectic way. The essays, songs, and poetic readings you’ll experience at This Is My Brave will leave you with a new, more positive view on mental illness. There are benefits to living with some of these conditions, believe it or not. Creativity, for one. Compassion, resilience, a fierce will to figure out what will bring relief are some of the others. I know there are more, too.

We want to show you what we’re capable of. In four short months we take the stage. I’ve been cognizant of the journey and have been diligently keeping my eye on the future at the same time.

Best of both worlds, for sure.

PS. I’ve been nominated for the WEGO Health Rookie of the Year Health Activist Award! I’d be so grateful if you’d take the time to endorse me via my Nominee Directory page. It only takes a minute - simply click the link and then select the purple thumbs up button beneath my profile picture. You can endorse me once a day until February 1st when they vote. {The 3 nominees with the highest number of endorsements will be named finalists!} Thank you so much!

Why I Write

Why-I-WritePhoto Credit: dawolf- via Compfight cc

I write to show the world the invisible parts of me.

I write because people need to know what mental illness looks like. It looks like me. A young mom of two feisty preschoolers with a loving husband by her side.

I write because it’s too hard for him to talk about the four times his wife slept so little her brain was buzzing out of control and he had to sign the papers. Talk with police officers. Visit the psych ward. Hold down the fort while I got well.

I write because my kids are too young to understand what their mommy experienced before they were born, when they were little. And I want them to know all of it. I’m hopeful they’ll wrap their arms around me with pride and love when they read all I’ve written.

I write because I want to make a difference. I’m over the old-school philosophy of “some things are better left unsaid.”

Said who?

The truth is, when things go unsaid, that’s when tragedies happen.

I write because I’m almost 35 and no one ever knows how much time is left. I don’t want to regret not speaking out. I want my story heard.

I write because although I’ve found the courage to disclose my illness, so many others are still suffocated by their conditions. They may be feeling defeated by the mental illness they’re battling. And they’re not quite ready to talk or write.

But once they push past the anger, the fear, the disbelief and the shame that their illness dropped onto their shoulders, there will be plenty of time for a coming out party.

They’ll combine voices to put the power of unity behind the message, take a look around and communicate how good it feels to have this weight lifted off their shoulders. A weight that never should have grown there in the first place.

I write because I found my purpose. I write to help others find their brave.

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My book is now a Snippet! To read my short e-book entitled Find Your Brave {a manifesto}, click HERE to download Snippet in the Apple store. It’s the fun, new interactive way to read quick, engaging e-books.