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:

ProFlowers #BringOnZen Bonsai

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary ProFlowers bonsai tree. Opinions are my own.

#BringOnZen

What would you say if a flower company offered to send you a beautiful little potted Bonsai tree to help you bring a little “zen” into your life? Well, if you’re like me, you’d say: Bring it on! I could use all the zen I can get.

“We want to send you one of our bonsai trees, a plant that symbolizes balance and peace, to help bring some zen into your hectic life.”

I couldn’t say no.

No matter how hard I try to scale back and keep things simple, life and schedules can get overwhelming at times. Which is why I was excited to pick out this ProFlowers bonsai tree for my home office as a reminder to take a deep breath when things get hectic.

Gardening has never been my forte. I’ve always admired my Grandma’s ability to keep a beautiful garden each year, full of blooming flowers which I could see from the road as I pulled up to her condo of twenty years in my hometown. She had a green thumb and kept many flourishing houseplants throughout her home.

Me? Whenever I’ve tried to grow anything it would usually not make it past a month.

But when my bonsai arrived, perfectly and securely packaged, I was relieved to find out that they don’t require all that much upkeep. Mine is an indoor bonsai which may shed some of its leaves as it gets used to its new environment. I water it daily and the excess runs out through the glass pot’s drain holes into the pretty decorative rock tray.

I love it in my little home office, as it’s got the perfect spot next to my desk where I can admire its beauty and simplicity.

As my new bonsai reminds me to #BringOnZen, here are my favorite ways to relax when I’m feeling a little stressed:

  • 30-minute yoga DVD
  • cup of coffee and a good book
  • a walk at sunset
  • taking a bubble bath
  • sitting outside in the sunshine

And since the weather is especially gorgeous here in Virginia today, I’m going to take a hint from my new ProFlowers bonsai tree, and am heading outside for a cup of iced tea in the sunshine.

If you’re interested in checking out a ProFlowers bonsai tree, or any of there beautiful arrangements, they sent me their current Coupon Codes to pass along to my readers.

Thank you so much, ProFlowers!

 

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.

#ILookToHer FTD flowers surprise

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FTD FLOWERS PROVIDED ME A BOUQUET FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS PIECE.
THE OPINIONS ARE MINE. 

As women we don’t do enough celebrating of each other. Girlfriends are who we lean on, who we count on for support and advice, who we look to when life throws us curveballs and we need the gentle reminder that we can get through it. Together.

When FTD Flowers recently contacted me about a campaign they were launching, #ILookToHer, I knew exactly who I’d be presenting the sweet gift of gorgeous blooms to – my dear friend and business partner, Anne Marie.

Why #ILookToHer

I met Anne Marie two and a half years ago and don’t even want to think about what life would be like if we wouldn’t have been introduced by a mutual friend (thank you, Kiran!). From the moment we met, we became instant friends. Our dedication to mental health awareness enabled us to co-found a non-profit organization which helps people to share their stories of overcoming mental illness through artistic means: poetry, original music and essays, live on stage.

Anne Marie has the warmest smile, such a kind heart, and a drive to make things happen through hard work and dedication. She’s a loving wife to Steve, and has three super smart and handsome boys: Nolan, Daniel and Alex. She loves her family fiercely and does such an amazing job of teaching her boys about the ups and downs of life and how to navigate the tough times.

I was so excited to surprise Anne Marie with this beautiful bouquet of flowers from FTD. It was tricky to figure out a good place to surprise her, but I was able to get her to text me her schedule this morning, and I knew I’d have a good shot at pulling off the surprise if I met her after her 11:30 appointment at an office nearby my house. Timing it perfectly, I was in luck! And to make it even better, her son Alex was there to snap some photos for me. (Thanks so much, Alex!)

#ILookToHer FTD Flower Surprise

Surprising Anne Marie with an FTD bouquet because #ILookToHer

 

This Valentine’s Day, or really, any day, take a moment to celebrate the special women in your life. Because what woman doesn’t love to receive flowers?

*****

Huge Thank You to FTD Flowers for giving me the opportunity to share a special gift with an important woman in my life. #ILookToHer