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. 

Letters for Kitty

letters-for-kittyPhoto Credit: skipmoore via Compfight cc

I had a pen pal when I was thirteen. We lived in adjacent states; he in Maryland and I in Pennsylvania. We wrote love letters to each other and I remember the heady anticipation of running off the bus, heart beating as fast as the wings of a hummingbird, and straight to the mailbox to see if I had a new letter. Our dads went to college together and we’ve known each other our whole lives. He was my first crush and today he’s still one of my best friends in the world.

My mom still has the box of his letters I saved. A whole shoe box full.

Handwritten letters can touch a person’s heart the way an email or text could never begin to. Taking the time to choose pretty stationary, a swift pen, and the perfect stamp to send it on its way makes receiving a gift in the mailbox such special experience. I love seeing a friend’s personality come through in his or her handwriting.

Writing letters is an art. And we need to bring that art back in a big way.

I recently found out about The World Needs More Love Letters from a good friend of mine who knows what makes me tick. I squealed as I read her email it was so spot-on.

Grassroots projects like More Love Letters help restore my faith in humanity. When strangers come together to join a movement like this, when they stop what they’re doing in their busy, full lives to write a letter which will most certainly affect a stranger’s life in a positive way?

This is what it’s all about folks.

But listen. This isn’t about mushy, sticky-sweet, kissed-in-red-lipstick-topped-off-with-a-spritz-of-perfume note cards. These are love letters of a different sort.

These are love letters laced with the tales of how you stumbled and fell, how it hurt like hell, but how you picked yourself up and learned to put one foot in front of the other again. You may not realize the power of sharing your story with someone you don’t know, but I do.

And it’s such a good feeling. Because the person on the other side, reading your words, no longer feels so alone.

Think of it as sending a warm, fuzzy hug to someone who could really use one right now.

 

I’m hoping you’ll join me in waking up the lost art of letter writing. There is someone who I think could benefit from the expertise (or just plain old everyday encouragement) of my readers. Her name is Kitty.

Head over to More Love Letters and scroll down until you get to The Second Day of Letter Writing to read her story. Let’s send her some love. Tell her about how you’re managing. Tell her how some days are harder than others but that you keep going. Tell her how inspired you are by her dedication to her profession. Write your heart out. Your words will make a difference.

Just remember to get your letter in the mail by December 20th so that it’ll be included in Kitty’s bundle.

 

PS. My e-book is going to be published on Snippet tomorrow – Thursday {which may be today, depending on when you’re reading this.} I hope you’ll check it out and share it. Consider it my first {of more to come!} letter to the world, all about how I found the courage to accept my mental illness.

Click HERE to download Snippet in the Apple store. It’s the fun, new interactive way to read short, engaging e-books.

A Lesson in Hesitation

lesson-in-hesitation

{written Monday morning}

Last night was awful. Well, not all of it. I’ve been so stressed and when I’m stressed I snap easily. I forget that the kids are just being kids and when they’re in an environment other than their own home and they’re eating different foods than they normally do, they are going to behave differently. I forget that this water damage to our house and having to live in a hotel affects my husband, too. He just doesn’t show it like I do, all screaming in frustration and throwing my hands up in the air. He never loses it like I do.

I got mad at him for not wanting to come with me to get dinner. {The insurance agency took pity on us and put us up in a hotel and gave us per diem for the past five days due to our lack of stovetop plus the heat and bone dry air from the blowers and humidifiers running 24/7 to dry out the damp floors.} So he stayed at the hotel, watching a movie, while I loaded up our two littles into the car to go grab takeout.

I was stopped at a red light, dreading having to load up my arms with dinner items while at the same time wrangling the two monsters when I looked out my passenger window. I caught sight of a young Indian woman on her cell phone, shivering in the cold. I wondered what she was doing out there [Read more…]

Sunshine Award

sunshine-awardWhen I got pregnant for the first time, I started blogging. I felt the need to document the exciting stuff we were going through for our friends and family who lived far away. Primarily, my parents who were living in Florida. I wanted them to be able to check our blog for updates on the pregnancy and all the pictures we’d take once the baby arrived and started growing up.

That was in January of 2008. I never imagined I’d keep going for six years. [Read more…]