A Weekend At Home

This is going to be a long, boring post. Bear with me. I feel the need to justify my blogging absence by writing it all out. If only for myself. It's been a busy couple of months in our household. At the end of August, Ben and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary surrounded by our friends and family. It just happened to coincide perfectly with the summer house concert we had booked with independent artist and now friend of ours, Shannon Curtis. The evening was the perfect way to mark our special day. Shannon's music was simply beautiful and she played under the big oak tree next to our house while the crickets chirped and the lights that Ben strung twinkled. My only regret is not taking more pictures, but I am glad I remembered to stay present and in the moment. It was a magical night to remember.

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The kids started school in the weeks that followed and I was busy helping our New York City team prep for their October show. The first weekend in September, my brother and I surprised my mom in Florida for her 65th Birthday. The look on her face was priceless when we both walked in the door, but lucky for her I decided not to Periscope or even photograph the surprise since she was still in her pajamas. You're welcome, mom. Instead we have a photo of us wearing bibs. I loved getting to see my Grandma, too, since I hadn't seen her since February which felt like so long ago.

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The second weekend in September Wear Your Label, a conscious clothing company out of Canada, invited me to emcee their fashion show at New York Fashion Week in New York City. The timing couldn't have been better, since that was the same weekend our New York City cast was getting together for the first time and I was able to attend and meet everyone. It was an awesome {albeit fast-paced} weekend. I loved meeting Kaylee and Kyle {the Co-Founders of Wear Your Label} and look forward to working with them in the future on another mental health awareness event.

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The third weekend of September was the Northern Virginia NAMI {National Alliance on Mental Illness} walk. Anne Marie and I hosted a This Is My Brave table and got to talk with lots of attendees about our organization and what we do. We sold a bunch of Brave tees and brave beads, and our cast member Laurie was there to help us and catch up. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful, to top it off.

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The last weekend of September I was invited to the DBSA {Depression Bipolar Support Alliance} annual conference in Chicago to present during the Peer Showcase night, the first evening of the conference. I was joined by Canadian comedian David Granier of Stand Up for Mental Health, and my friend, singer/songwriter Shannon Curtis. We kicked off the conference with storytelling, comedy and music, and everyone had a lovely evening. The weekend was full of incredible speakers: Dese'Rae Stage of Live Thru This, Mariel Hemingway, and Andrew Solomon. I met so many amazing, like-minded people, and I felt at home.

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Just this past weekend, on October 4th, This Is My Brave had our first show in New York City. I can't even begin to describe how proud I am of our cast and production team. I was beaming from the moment the curtain went up until I closed my eyes to fall asleep that night, exhausted with the joy of what they had accomplished.

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My parents flew in from Florida to spend the weekend with me and see the show. Despite the threats from Hurricane Joaquin, we made it. We drove to Long Island on Friday to see my Uncle Marty and his partner Ralph, and had a great time catching up with them before heading into the city on Saturday. I was able to attend the second half of rehearsal on Saturday, and then spent the rest of the day and evening getting last-minute details ready for the show. Sunday morning, my dad and I went to the Today Show with signs to try to get some free publicity. The show touched me on so many levels and I loved seeing and hearing how the event impacted all who attended. Monday was my dad's birthday, and I am so thankful I got to celebrate it with him and my mom over a lovely dinner after the show. Living over a thousand miles apart makes me so grateful for the moments we get to spend together.

This weekend I was supposed to host a table at the AFSP {American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - there will be a quiz on all the mental health organization acronyms at the end!} community walk in DC, but after being in DC on Friday for the International Bipolar Foundation breakfast, I knew I needed a day off. That, and realizing the tornado inside of our house was screaming to be tamed, I made the decision to take this weekend to re-group, clean and spend time at home with my family.

I spent yesterday attacking one room at a time with a duster, the vacuum, and the desire to give everyone a fresh, clean start as we tumble into autumn. As I cleaned, I listened to Jenny Lawson's new book, Furiously Happy, and found myself having to stop what I was doing and tweet out quotes it was so good. It made me want to get serious about writing my own memoir about living with bipolar, which is something I desperately want to do someday. But at the moment my focus is on This Is My Brave, our seventh and final show of this year {LA's book launch event for Amy Ferris' Shades of Blue on November 19th! Details coming this week!} and planning for 2016.

I'm not going to lie. These past few months have been exhausting. But at the same time, they are what fill me up. It's hard to be away from my family, but I return to them more complete. It's an unbelievable feeling to know in your heart that you've found your life's calling, and I don't take it for granted. Whenever someone tells me how much my work touches them and it's so wonderful I'm helping so many people, I am overwhelmed. All I ever wanted to do was encourage people to be open and share their stories. It's only because people believed in me that this work is able to touch so many. I am so grateful people had confidence in my vision.

I can't help but let my insecurities creep in from time to time. Typically when I hear about a suicide or that someone I know is struggling with their own mental health. I feel so helpless, even though I've battled similar demons. Why can't I find the right words? Why can't I be a better friend? Why can't I make a bigger difference, help more people, stop the suffering?

I know it has to do with the issue of being enough and accepting that I am enough, and these are things I'm working on. This is not a plea for pity or praise. I'm just putting it out there because I want to be real, and I want my readers to know that I still have plenty of things I'm working on. Just because I've found stability with my mental health doesn't mean my life is perfect. If only it were that easy. Anne Marie reminds me nearly every week that we've accomplished a great deal in our first two years, and I know she is right. I know that I want This Is My Brave to grow slowly and sustainably, staying true to our mission of ending stigma through storytelling, which is exactly what we're doing.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey, especially my husband, parents and in-laws who are always willing to jump in and help with the kids so that I can attend meetings, conferences, and special events. I wouldn't be on this journey if it weren't for my friends cheering me on, my readers continuously reaching out to tell me how much they appreciate me being open about my story, and my growing This Is My Brave family for contributing to this dream. Sometimes it doesn't feel real, like when I saw myself on the cover of Bipolar Hope Magazine this week. I am full of gratitude for this life.

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Happy Holiday weekend, friends. Thanks for being on this journey with me.

This is Friday

Friday mornings we're up by 7:30am at the latest. I'm downstairs in my fuzzy yellow bathrobe, attending to priority number one: coffee. I talk the kids into cereal or oatmeal because it's faster and less messy, even though they'd prefer pancakes or waffles if I could let them choose. Three minutes later I look over and they're deep in conversation together so I listen in. He talks of his excitement over his friend coming over to play later in the afternoon, a playdate arranged by the mommies since the two boys seem inseparable at school lately. She ponders what color tights she'll wear from the rainbow of colors Grandma got her at Target the other day. Friday mornings mean her brother and I get to watch her gracefully twirl and shake and jump while my heart bursts with pride and joy. I melt at seeing how much she loves to dance.

By the time 4:30pm rolls around, we're anticipating Daddy's arrival home. He's the pizza master, and since I've been thawing the dough since noon, it's ready to go and so are our appetites. The kids and their father eat the meat, so they cover their side with turkey pepperoni. Mine usual is mushrooms and yellow pepper slices, whatever veggies are left in the fridge by week's end. While it cooks we talk about our days. I show off Instagrams from the morning's dance class and any from the afternoon that I've taken. We're thankful it's Friday. We have the whole weekend ahead of us, together.

I convince the kids to pick up the toys and puzzles scattered around the family room while the pizza cools, fresh out of the oven. We make it a game with a timer to see who can beat the clock. He hands me a glass of red wine, cheers, and we sit down to our family dinner. Everyone oohs and ahhhs over Daddy's pizza skills and I vow to never cook again, again. Why cook when your husband is perfectly capable?

The movie starts at 7 and by then we're all ready for some serious cuddling time. We line up: big person, little person, big person, little person, and stretch the big red furry blanket out over all of us. Phones are left on the kitchen counter, ipads and laptops and turned off. I don't know a time I am more complete than when I have my children in my arms, my husband squeezing my hand from the other end of the couch, and I stop and appreciate all that I have.

This is Friday night with a three and a five-year old.

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Sure, there are squabbles and timeouts and messes to be cleaned up after every meal and snack. I'm highlighting here, for posterity.

The last few weeks this has been our new tradition. Lucky for us, our kids have only just begun to be exposed to the incredible world of Disney. Our past few Fridays have included The Lorax, Tangled, Brave, Frozen, all but one on loan from our best friends. Not sure what it will be tonight, but one thing is for sure: I love how we do Fridays.

#TGIF and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Best Day of My Life

{Have you heard the song ‘Best Day of My Life’ by American Authors yet?}

I woke up this morning to the sound of my daughter stirring in the room next to ours. Peeking into her room, I saw her sitting up smiling brightly in her teeny toddler bed, still tangled up in the flannel sheets with her lovey beside her.

Her eyes met mine and I managed a sleepy grin and a “Good morning, Sweetie” as I walked over to turn off her fan.

She hopped out of bed and I opened my arms wide to hold her and start our morning off with a hug. Her legs wrapped around my middle, wrists gripped snug behind my neck, she declared the perfect start to our day:

“This is going to be the best day evah!”

Yes, my sweet girl. With that attitude, you’re right. It’s another day we have together.

I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast because that’s what’s on the menu for the best day ever, of course. As I flipped the last of the golden brown circles into the pan, I eavesdropped on the conversation between my two littles at the kitchen table. They were exchanging giggles over whether to feed their Transformers tangerine slices or bites of pancakes, and I couldn’t help but catch it on video.

They play together while I do dishes and between sudsing up the pan and rinsing it off I look up through the steam to notice the snow that has started to fall outside the window. In the back of my mind I’m hoping this is the last time we see the white stuff this winter, but as I dry off the pan I am reminded of my daughter’s declaration and with that I remember the art project I had been saving for an occasion just like today.

A few minutes later the kids are elbow-deep in tempera paint when my son looks up at me and says, “Mommy, sometimes my dreams look like this."

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And I think, you know what bud? My dream looks like this, too. Except it’s not a dream. It’s real and it’s every day.

It's the best day ever.

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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Letting Go of the Secret

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Living a life with an ever-present fear of revealing a certain secret part of yourself isn’t truly living. I know, because I’ve been there. Being caught up in an inauthentic version of myself wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. And so I made some changes. The results were incredible.

At twenty-six years old, newly married and at the peak of my career as an agency recruiter, I was hit with mania. It came without warning, and felt exactly the same as slipping on black ice and landing flat on my back, the wind sucked out of my lungs and a searing pain pulsing through my bones. I was terrified of what was happening in my brain. I had lost control of everything and my career and reputation were on the line, not to mention my relationship with my husband who didn’t see this coming.

How would I ever recover from this mess?

I would, although recovery eluded me several times. Following my diagnosis, I spent a full year in what felt like an extended visit to a deserted island: the isle of depression. It seemed like no one could possibly understand what I was feeling. I fought waves of anxiety each morning, and would calm myself down from my afternoon anxiety by collapsing on the couch in front of the television, tears soaking the oversized pillow which my head rested on.

I saw many doctors, so many that I can’t remember most of their names. My parents pushed for second, third, fourth opinions. Not because they didn’t trust the doctor’s opinions, but because we hadn’t figured out what would bring me back to my baseline. My normal. Finally, after seeing one of the top doctors in our area, a national specialist in the study of bipolar disorder, I was ready to follow his advice, the same medication recommendation that the previous few psychiatrists had been urging me to try.

Within two months I felt better than I had felt in an entire year. Slivers of my old personality were coming back. When I laughed, it felt genuine and amazing, better than it had felt even before I became sick. When several weeks had passed and I realized I hadn’t cried, I was shocked. The drug was actually working for me.

There would be two more hospitalizations in the years that followed, only because I had taken myself off my medication during pregnancy to protect my kids. When my daughter was only 8 months old, I decided I was ready to tell my story in order to help other women who might think they couldn’t have a family because of their mental illness. I launched my blog and began writing, but kept my identity a secret because I feared the repercussions of the stigma associated with mental illness.

I kept writing and sharing my experience as a mom raising two small kids while at the same time managing my bipolar disorder and over the next year and a half, I realized that keeping my identity a secret was only adding to the stigma surrounding mental illness. It was a part of my life and I wanted to show society that I’m a real person with real emotions and I believe that people who live with mental illness should be treated like any other person living with any other life-long disease. We didn’t ask for these conditions we were dealt, and the last thing we need is for society to look the other way when we’re suffering and need support to find recovery.

I was no longer ashamed.

And so in April of 2013, I announced on my blog that I was “ready to not be anonymous anymore,” and I took a brave stand against stigma. The support that poured in from my family and friends, and people I didn’t even know but who had read my post, was overwhelming. The words of gratitude for sharing my story so courageously were like fuel to me, as I kept writing about my experiences and connecting with people who appreciated my transparency.

Six months ago I launched a project and couldn’t have imagined the response it has generated. This Is My Brave is a live theater production where people from the community will take turns at the microphone to share their story on stage via personal essays, original music and slam poetry. This Is My Brave is more than just a one-time performance. We have become a platform and a community for people living with mental illness to speak out in an effort to end the stigma associated with brain illnesses.

Our mission is to ignite and actively promote―through actions and social media― a positive, supportive national conversation about mental illness for those who live with, or love someone who lives with, a brain illness. Through the sharing of stories and experiences of those in recovery, we expect to provide a sense of community and hope; encouraging others to share their stories. We believe that each time one of us talks openly about living with mental illness, we create another crack which helps to break down the stigma. We’re currently in the process of converting to a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and have been actively planning the pursuit of our mission beyond the debut of This Is My Brave in Arlington on May 18th.

It’s time we bring mental health issues into the spotlight because they’ve been in the dark too long. Please visit www.thisismybrave.com to learn more about the show. Auditions are currently being scheduled (www.thisismybrave.com/auditions) and tickets to attend the show are on sale now at EventBrite.com.

Follow the show on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest news!

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Finding Focus

Finding-focus

She woke up shouting “Mommy!” at the top of her lungs and the shrill of her voice jolted me out of my deep sleep. Having stayed up past midnight last night didn’t bode well for the day ahead of me. I stumble sleepily into her room and turn off her white noise machine. After pulling on a hoodie and slipping on some warm socks, she reaches out her arms and asks me to carry her downstairs. I oblige, noting that in another year she’ll be emerging from her room by herself in the morning, on her own time, like her brother who is still curled up in his bed sleeping but likely not for much longer.

Breakfast is served, it’s oatmeal again and they both love choosing their own packet from the variety box of flavors. Milk added, to cool it down, I sip my hot coffee as their little voices chatter over their bowls. I mentally start to add up all the things I need to get done today. Worry seeps in but I refuse to let anxiety take over. It will get done eventually. It’s not the end of the world.

Once their bellies are full, my littles snuggle up on the couch under blankets, watching a favorite show, while I attempt to cross items off my list.

I have a lot going on these days. So much that I often hear, “I don’t know how you do it all. You must be so busy!” It’s true I constantly feel pulled in a hundred different directions, I have trouble saying no, and I stress myself out continuously throughout the day thinking about impending deadlines and the like. But I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

I’m learning to take things one step at a time. I’m working on staying focused on the task in front of me because in reality nothing matters more than the moment we’re living in; life does not come with the guarantee of tomorrow. I’m trying my best to practice all these things, and I catch myself smiling in the moments when I get it right.

This morning just happened to be one of those days when I felt like I had so much to get done that I couldn’t figure out where to start. I begin one task only to be distracted by my daughter asking for milk or my son asking me to play a game. It was no use. I gave up on attempting anything other than sending out a few emails.

Instead I closed my laptop, surrending to the morning. Scooping up my little girl, who was pulling at my sweatpants, begging for attention, I found focus. We rubbed noses, our silly little way of saying ‘I love you’ and she pulled me in tight for a big bear hug. As she pulled away, she stared into my eyes and asked me a simple question.

“There. Do you feel bedder, Mommy?” her head tilted to the side, a sweet smile dancing across her perfect lips.

It was all I needed to put things into perspective. Yes, I felt much better, I told her. Now, how about a snack?

Keep Climbing

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Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My little man and I both had the flu last weekend, and I spent two straight days in bed, fighting off the virus that had crept into my bones. I got down on myself because the two goals I had set for myself in January - exercise every day and write 500 words a day - both went untouched for a full forty-eight hours.

Even when I started feeling better, I felt paralyzed by the growing pile of tasks I needed to accomplish this week. Which led to stalling. And self-pity. And more procrastinating.

I am just stuck, I thought. I know there’s a way to get back on track. But how?

Not knowing whether or not it would work, but thinking it was at least worth a shot, I gave myself the day off. After dropping off my son at preschool for the afternoon, V and I had an impromptu Mommy/Daughter day.

Our first stop was the mall, where we returned a Christmas gift I had given my husband at The Gap. She had a ball hiding in the racks causing her mama anxiety, quickly indicating how much of a challenge shopping with little Miss Independent was going to be. So I decided to head back towards home to pick a different activity. But not before snapping a photo of my big girl and her new friend.

new-friend{Because this isn't the least bit creepy. That's her avocado from lunch on her sleeve.}

Every Mommy/Daughter day needs a special treat. We stopped in at Starbucks for a little coffee time. Caffeine and sugar are always good for igniting my writer’s voice. My mini-me picked a chocolate cake pop which pleased me since I know I can usually count on her to share at least one tiny bite. Her brother? Never.

From there we headed to the playground. As we drove in to the parking lot, I was relieved to find it empty, not wanting to have to make small talk with other moms I didn’t know. I just wanted to soak up the precious minutes alone with my little girl. Greedy for our one-on-one time, new territory as of recently. I've stopped fighting her on afternoon naps, reminding myself that her brother gave his up around this age.

She wanted to do everything. I watched, mostly, cheering her on from the sidelines while sipping my latte, admiring my baby’s fierce determination and squeals of joy in the little pleasures like riding the springy elephant to being pushed on the swing, her fine blonde wisps blowing in the chilly breeze.

My playground bunny asked for help scaling the rock wall. Putting my coffee down on the bench, but not wanting to give her more assistance than she actually needed, I placed a hand on her lower back so she could feel my presence. And instead of physically helping her with the climb, I used words to motivate her.

“Find your footing,” I said, as her toes tapped the ledges to find her next step forward.

“I can’t!!” she cried, ready to give up before she had even climbed a foot.

“Don’t say ‘I can’t!’” I chided gently. “You can do it. I know you can.” I reassured her. She wanted to keep going. It’s not like my little girl to give up on something that easily. I knew she was just testing me, making sure I was there to support her.

The climb was slow. She’d ascend a step, but would suddenly seem to get stuck, not knowing her next move.

Stuck. Like me.

“Keep looking ahead, Sweetie.” I reminded her. Her tiny fingers reached up to the grip above her head, legs stretched straight until she found her next step.

That’s it. That’s all my daughter needed and a few more reaches and steps and she was at the top of the mountain doing a happy little dance. Proud mama below, cheering.

We wrapped up our afternoon outing with a trip to the library before collecting her brother at preschool carline where she promptly fell asleep. In that moment I sat in the car waiting for my little boy to emerge from school, full of gratitude for a day spent hand-in-hand with my second child who reminded me how to get unstuck.

Find your footing. Don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Keep looking ahead.

My mantras for the rest of this year. Thanks for the tips, baby girl. Let's keep on climbing.

 

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!

Planting seeds

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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 Thanksgiving Clock

4236278556_cef6edb710Photo Credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via Compfight cc

Last year at Thanksgiving time, our world was turned upside down when our daughter's health was threatened by a disease neither my husband nor I had ever heard of. She spent ten days in the hospital while the doctors tried to figure out what was causing our baby all that pain.

It was one of the hardest, most scary times in our life as a family.

Finally, after tons of tests, three different IV antibiotics including vancomycin {traditionally known as the drug of "last resort"} and no changes, they moved forward with a 12-hour procedure called IVIG. The morning after the treatment, she perked up and her personality returned. The relief we felt was immeasurable. Forty-eight hours later we were going home.

 

In our daughter’s hospital room, there was a huge digital clock displayed on the top of the wall opposite the bed. You couldn’t miss it. The numbers glowed red as you watched the seconds of your life pass you by, morning, noon and night. It didn’t make a sound, but it didn’t need to.

There were plenty of moments I caught myself staring at the clock while my daughter napped. I wanted to reach up and snatch the seconds that were slipping away. Time was moving too fast. It was disappearing before my eyes. If I could only grab onto time and tuck it away, I'd make sure I didn't waste it.

 

Watching time that closely changed me.

 

The big red hospital clock taught me to count my blessings. Not just at Thanksgiving time, but every single day of my life. Because I'll never know when my time will be up. It was a brilliant reminder that even when we're not paying attention, time is passing silently in the background of our lives. I want to make every moment count.

These days I sometimes stand by the clock in our kitchen to hear it tick. It only takes a few seconds of listening to the tick, tick, tick, to be reminded of how precious life is and how it’s important to savor as much of it as I can and to be thankful for all the seconds which when added up equals my time here.

I'm thankful for time this year. Time with my family and friends, time to work at what I love, and time to admire all the extraordinary people I'm meeting along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be sure to count your blessings. Tomorrow and every day.

 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" - Mary Oliver

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