Bringing Mental Illness into the Light

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Rejection hurts. It stings my heart and crushes my soul. When it happens more than I can count on one hand in a matter of three days, well, it makes for a shitty week. Makes me wonder if it’s worth all the effort.

This morning I unconsciously pulled a teeshirt out of my dresser drawer. I was immediately reminded of what drives me as I pulled the shirt over my head, stared at my reflection in the mirror. What pushes me to continue on through the no’s, the unreturned phone calls, the doubts in my mind.

I’ve heard these doubts whispering in my head before. They were gossiping amongst themselves, loud enough for me to overhear, when we launched our Kickstarter in 2013. Even when we surpassed our goal, they still kept on chattering through our auditions, rehearsals, right up until I walked on stage with my cast for our debut show. Once our cast took to the podium, one by one, we finally silenced those doubts.

So they’ve returned, and I’m not surprised. I have to once again focus on our mission, why we came together to raise our voices for the greater good.

The gray tee with maroon block letters I was wearing today is one of my biggest reminders. VIRGINIA TECH. We will never forget.

I often wonder what would have happened if one person would have been courageous enough to have been the net that could have prevented the awful tragedy of April 16, 2007. One person reaching out. One person noticing. One person providing help.

I know it’s so much more complicated than that, believe me.

I remember when the news broke, where I was, what I was doing. Shaking. On the phone with my brother, a VT alum. Then my husband,  also an alum. Staring at the TV in disbelief.

The power of This Is My Brave lies in the vulnerability of the people who decide to stand up on stage and tell their story through a microphone, or publish their words to our community’s blog. We’ve been through the unthinkable. But we’ve made it to the other side. We’re stronger, better equipped to continue the fight. Ready to make a difference.

We all have our struggles in life. What if, instead of pushing those issues and problems and fear of being judged down deep inside of us, we made a bold move and opened up?

I used to be afraid of people finding out that I have bipolar disorder. But ever since I stopped hiding, I’ve noticed something huge. The vast majority of the time, the person on the other end of the conversation says, “me too.” Or, “someone close to me is suffering from depression,” or “my mom/dad/brother/sister/aunt/cousin/etc./etc./etc. has a mental illness.”

It’s everywhere.

Which is why I won’t give up. I won’t stop talking about mental illness because we’re all affected by it. And I want to change lives by continuing to bring true stories into the light. If just one person is helped by this work, it’s all worth it.

Move over insecurity, I have important work to do.

The Key to Avoiding Mommy-Meltdown

 Self-care: The Key to Avoiding the Mommy-Meltdown

This is the third post of a 12-week series on How I Learned to Manage My Bipolar Illness by Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle.

If your winter has been as rough as ours has been so far this winter, then your kids are likely on their third snow day in a row and you may be in the middle of a mommy-meltdown. (Now it hasn’t been nearly as bad as Boston, thank heavens. That poor city deserves a break!) If you’re like me, you’ve already begun to wave the white flag. We had built forts, baked banana bread, watched movies, the kids went sledding with their Daddy (no way was I going out in the frigid temps!), wrote stories, read books, and played about thirty rounds of Pictionary.

I was frazzled. Cabin fever coupled with whiny kids wreaks havoc on my mood.

Then I realized. It had been days since I took time to myself. I don’t know why I sometimes forget to do this simple thing, but I do. I get caught up in the rush and frenzy of the days, all the while putting the kids needs before mine, and before I know it the clock says 11pm and I’m crawling into bed, exhausted and a little bitter for the absence of downtime.

Self-care is easy when we remember

One of my favorite ways to relax is by taking a nice warm bubble bath while reading a book. Another is to give myself a manicure. Or snuggling up on the couch with my husband and watching something on Netflix. The key for me is to carve out the time to let myself enjoy the luxury of doing something I love.

Lack of me-time = stress

I only realized I was an introvert a few years ago. I do love meeting new people and going to conferences and networking events, but I always need time to unwind by myself after outings like these or I get stressed out. Even a fun family trip can cause me to get agitated at the end because I haven’t had enough time to just be alone. But I’ve learned it’s important that I recognized this need so I can plan to adjust my schedule to include downtime.

Something to look forward to

I love when I’m able to schedule self-care, like lunch with friends or a yoga class or date night with my husband. Because then I have it on my calendar and I know I won’t accidentally forget. It’s something to look forward to, and that makes it even more enjoyable. The third snow day in a row doesn’t seem so unbearable anymore when I have a much-anticipated event on my mind.

Self-care is important for anyone, not only those of us who live with mental illness. But ever since I began making self-care an integral part of my treatment plan, I’ve noticed a positive change in the stability of my moods. These days I make sure to take time for myself each day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – because the solo time allows me to avoid the mommy-meltdown.

Do you remember to make time for self-care?

For the love of crayons

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I was honored to be invited to participate in Rachel Cedar’s series entitled, 28 Days of Play, a collection of essays by parents which revolve around how we play with our children

Initially I was hesitant to write a piece. I thought back to my son’s infant and toddler years, remembering with affection how each day was filled with hours upon hours of down-on-the-floor, nose-to-nose playtime. By the time our daughter was born, things began to change. I was back at work part-time, and then when she arrived, I had to learn how to juggle the needs of an energetic toddler and a newborn.

I’d love for you to click over to You Plus Two Parenting to read my essay and let me know your thoughts. The month is full of talented writers I admire, so I encourage you to check back often and read them all.

My story matters. And so does yours.

OC87Logo Your Story Matters Bipolar Mom Life on OC87RecoveryDiaries

 

 

 

 

I used to remain silent about my mental illness. I let fear control whether I shared my story even as my heart urged me to speak up, to free myself of the heavy secret.

I know how hard it is to open up. But the more we show our true selves to the world, the sooner the world will begin to understand our struggles. The same way we understand how a diabetic has to inject insulin, and how a cancer patient undergoes radiation and chemo. We know this because they aren’t ashamed of their stories.

We shouldn’t be either.

Last year I found an incredible documentary on Netflix called OC87. It’s a film about Bud Clayman, whose story is similar to mine in ways. He was a stellar student and went to college to pursue a career in filmmaking. It was during his college years when he had a breakdown, had to return home and entered a long-term residential treatment facility.

Thirty years later, in 2010, Bud released the movie that changed his life. It’s an inspiring story that provides a glimpse into the mind of someone trying desperately to find a way to regain control over his mental illness. Through video diaries, Bud reveals eye-opening glimpses of his inner world, including OC87, an altered state of mind named by Bud and his therapist.

Bud fought intrusive thoughts daily, and over the years was diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. But it’s his determined personality which allows him to use his creativity to learn to manage his illness and educate the general public to end stigma.

I recently was invited to write for Bud’s online community and would love for you to visit OC87 Recovery Diaries to read my essay.