2020 Vision

In light of recent events in the world, I feel a strong urge to speak up. It is time for us to use our voices and come together to find solutions. We are currently facing a pandemic that it sweeping across the world, bringing everything to a halt. It is affecting the economy, shutting down schools, stopping social gatherings, causing people to lose their jobs, creating panic and fear, and disrupting our daily routines. You can feel the anxiety and fear in the air.

But in the midst of all of the chaos, there is also a renewed sense of vision. A clarity of mind that comes when life takes a drastic shift and we have to re-adjust and ask ourselves the hard questions. We are waking up to the problems in our society that need addressing. We are waking up to the problems and conflict within our own homes. We are taking an introspective look at our lives and asking ourselves if we are truly living in harmony with our life’s purpose and goals.

Here are some questions I have been asking myself recently:

Am I taking care of my physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health? Am I focusing on the things that matter most? Are my relationships healthy and strong? Am I simply reacting to external events or am I choosing to be proactive and intentional? How am I spending my time and energy? What is my life’s focus? Am I living life in a selfish manner, or am I helping others? What do I have to offer and how can I make a difference? How can I use my unique gifts to serve and lift those around me? How can we as a nation help build and create stronger communities that are ready to face times of crisis and change?

Several years ago, I decided to ditch the idea of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions. I felt that I needed to simplify my approach. I decided instead to choose ONE focus or theme that I would work on that year. This year, as I contemplated my life and where I wanted to improve, the word that came to my mind was “Vision”. As I wrote my new focus down in my planner, I laughed out loud as I made the connection. “2020 Vision”. It was perfect! I didn’t quite know what that meant at the time. I just knew that I wanted to look ahead and work to create the life that I envisioned. I wanted to have a clearer vision of who I was and be more intentional about the way I spent my time.

On Wednesday, we had quite the wake up call at our house–literally! I woke up at 7:00am. I stayed in bed, not wanting to get up yet. At 7:09am, I heard a loud rumbling sound. My bed started shaking. I realized with sudden clarity that the whole house was shaking and shifting–earthquake!! My heart started racing and I felt a rush of adrenaline. I didn’t care about the crashes I heard as things fell off of shelves. My main concern was my children. I bet they were terrified! I waited until the shaking stopped, then raced up the stairs, calling out to them. “It’s ok, it’s ok! Do you know what that was? Are you guys ok?!” I shouted as I ran. My girls stumbled out of their rooms, looking confused and a little scared. My son confidently stated, “that was an earthquake”. He didn’t seem shaken up at all! I was still trembling! I had expected my kids to freak out more than they did. I was glad everyone was ok. We were safe! But part of me worried–would there be more shaking? Was that it, or was there more to come?

We sat in the hallway outside of their bedrooms while I called my husband, checked the news, and texted my family and friends to check on them. My husband had been at work, on the 4th floor of his building. He hid under his desk as the whole building seemed to sway. As soon as it was over, he quickly exited the building. “I’m on my way home!” he said.

We soon learned that we had experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. We live pretty close to the epicenter in Magna, UT, which is why we felt it so strongly! Throughout the rest of the day, we continued to feel aftershocks. It was unnerving! My fight-or-flight response had me on constant alert. My anxiety levels were at an all-time high. First a pandemic, then this?! What was next?!

But then, with sudden clarity, I started to count my blessings. I was glad it happened at the time it did. The kids and I were home and we were together. Because of the pandemic, ALL of the children in our neighborhood were home instead of at school! What a blessing! Our shelves were well-stocked with food because we were basically in a 2 week quarantine. We didn’t have to go out today–we could just stay home. The day before, my car wouldn’t start. A friend had to come and help me jump it. I was able to drive to the school, pick up chrome books for the kids (so they could do their school work at home), and stop by Auto Zone to buy a new car battery. If we needed to go anywhere today, our van was ready to go! And the kids had something to keep them busy, which was a blessing because I simply couldn’t focus on our regular home routine.

Getting through this time won’t be easy, but I have already seen hidden blessings in the midst of the storm. These times will require us to step up, make changes, and work to create a better future. Yes, it has shaken me to the core. But sometimes, that is a good thing. I am more “awake” and aware. It made me want to reach out to my neighbors. It has encouraged me to connect with family and keep those family bonds strong. It has helped me to notice things at home that I was ignoring–things that need “fixing”. It has brought our family together. Having church and school at home, as a family, is helping us to focus on what is most important. It is pushing us as parents to step up and take responsibility for what we are teaching (and modeling to) our children. I know that you might disagree, but I can’t help but feel that these things will change us, in good ways. I still feel hope for the future. I am seeing humanity come together in a common purpose. We are finding our footing and gathering the courage to move forward in tumultuous times. Take courage! Be strong. Step up and help to create a better future and stronger families and communities. We are all needed. We all have something to contribute. There is hope as long as there is love and goodness in the world. Start looking for the good, and you will find it!


The Gift of Today

Today I can live my life on purpose.
Today I can choose to make a change.
Today I can break a bad habit and start a new tradition.
Today I can learn something that will change the way I see the world.

Today I can create a memory that will last forever.
Today I can savor the richness of my life.
Today I can choose to do what I love.
Today I can find joy by being fully present in this moment.

Today I can marvel at the gift of my body.
Today I can look in the mirror and declare, “I am beautiful”.
Today I can choose to believe in myself.
Today I can decide to be the real me.

Today I can forgive myself and others.
Today I can choose to face my fears.
Today I can use the gifts that God has given me.
Today I can choose to speak the truth, with love.

Today I can make a difference.
Today I can begin to live my dream.
Today I can choose to be happy in my current circumstance.
Today I can cherish every moment with the people I love.

Yesterday is decided and tomorrow is unknown, so I will embrace TODAY.

Written by Becky Wise

Inside My Mind

I feel intense joy.  I feel intense sadness.  I am not a “happy person” or a “sad person”—I am both!  I don’t fit in a box.  I don’t think anyone really does.  Let me try to explain what is going on in my mind.

I have bipolar 1 disorder.  Clinically, I am “insane”.  But I’m not that much different from you.  Have you ever felt so much JOY that you felt you would burst?  That’s what mania feels like to me!  I feel like dancing and singing and praising the Lord!  It feels like falling in love all over again.  I can’t stop smiling!  I feel so loved and so loving.  I laugh easily, because life is a comedy!  I talk fast and run fast and can’t sit still—I want to share my joy with everyone around me!  I feel like a child again.

When I am in a manic state, I feel like talking to every stranger and hugging and kissing my family and friends.  I am confident and outgoing.  I know who I am and I feel that I have so much to share with the world!  I didn’t know that I was capable of feeling so much happiness!  I am so full of love and light.  I can’t contain it—it comes spilling out in words and hugs and praise and tears.  I cry tears of pure joy! 

When I am manic, the future looks bright!  I feel strong and confident and excited and powerful, like nothing in the world can stop me from accomplishing my dreams.  My faith in myself and in God is stronger than ever.  I can sense the great potential of my own mind.  I am full of brilliant ideas and the words just flow.  I feel that there is no limit to what I can accomplish if I put my mind to something! 

The hard part of mania is choosing a focus and a direction.  It’s hard to stop or slow down.  I feel like it’s “full speed ahead!” and no brakes!  On the outside, I know it looks strange.  I am distracted and full of energy and running around, obsessing or hyper-focusing on things that call for my attention.  I bounce from one thing to the next.  I write.  I talk.  I exercise.  I laugh.  I make love to my husband.  I dance and sing with my children.  I pray out loud.  I reach out.  I make a new friend.  I express my creativity.  So many thoughts and ideas are trying to grab for my attention.  It can be overwhelming and confusing!  There are so many possibilities and so many outlets!  I don’t care about eating or sleeping.  I’m having too much fun!  I want to do it all, but I know this state won’t last forever.  I have to choose how to best expend my energy in a positive way and hope that my joy adds a little bit more light to the world.  I feel it and embrace it.  I try not to scare people and to stay in control.  I don’t want them to be afraid.  This is just me feeling joy!  And then depression hits. 

Have you ever felt so sad that you just wanted to curl in a ball and cry?  Have you ever been so hurt that you couldn’t put your feelings into words?  Have you ever had negative thoughts in your head that tell you horrible things about yourself?  Have you ever doubted your abilities, or even your innate goodness?  Have you ever had a scary nightmare, then woke up with a sigh of relief when you realized it wasn’t real?!  That is what depression feels like to me. 

Depression is scary and draining and debilitating and miserable.  My perspective about myself and the world around me drastically changes.  I am filled with self-doubt and self-loathing. I feel like nobody loves me or cares whether I live or die. I feel like I have nothing to offer the world. Life is a tragedy and there is no hope.  I try to push away the dark thoughts and remember what it felt like to feel happy.  I try to pray.  I try to remember the happy Becky.  The confident Becky.  The funny Becky.  The loving Becky.  I try to remember who I am, while someone is screaming in my ear that I am horrible and dangerous and evil and bad and that I am going to die.  It is absolutely terrifying!! 

There are parts of this illness that I want to share with you and parts that I want to keep hidden.  But I am tired of hiding!  Too many people are hiding and suffering in silence.  I want you to know the real me!  It exists somewhere in between the highs and the lows.  Can you see the real Becky?  Can you love me, even when I’m a bit erratic?  Can you love me when I am depressed?  Can you remind me of who I really am when I can’t see it?  Can you laugh and dance with me when I am manic?  Can you forgive me for my outbursts?  Can you withhold judgment, when my behavior just doesn’t make sense to you (or maybe even scares you)?  I’m just trying to figure all of this out! I am trying to find balance. I am trying to be the real me! 

I feel that my true state is much closer to my manic side.  I am a happy person!  I am full of love!  I want to make friends!  I want to write a book someday!  I am optimistic about the future!  I love to sing!  I feel like dancing!  God lives and He loves me!  I am His precious daughter.  I have part of His divinity and goodness in me!  I have gifts to share!  There is light in me and I want to share it with the world!

This illness does not define me.  But it is teaching me.  It is helping me to discover the real Becky.  It is helping me to discover my innate gifts.  It is forcing me to face my fears.  It is opening my heart to love.  It is changing me as a person.  If you call for help, I’ll come running!  I know what it feels like to feel completely hopeless!  I know what it feels like when suicidal thoughts attack.  I know what it feels like to feel judged and misunderstood.  I know what it fills like when the depression lifts and happiness returns.  I know how to help you come back.  I can see you—the REAL you!  I want to remind you of your strengths!  I want to talk you through a panic attack.  I want to hold your hand through a dark depression.  I want to rejoice with you when you are happy and cry with you when you are sad.  I love you!! 

That is what I am learning from this illness—empathy!  I’d gladly go through it all again, just to be able to understand you.  Just to be able to help you.  You, who face the darkness!  You, who contemplated giving up on life!  You, who have either doubted or felt your true potential!  You, who just need to be loved!  You, who are hiding!  You, who need a friend who understands!  You, who are struggling just to get through today!  You, who doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring!  I promise that you can get through this!  You are not alone, and we are in this together!  We can help each other along the way.  You strengthen and inspire me.  You are walking with me.  We can do this!  Keep fighting!  Animo!!  (It’s my favorite word in Spanish—look it up!)

On a Rollercoaster

Sometimes I am up. Sometimes I am down. I think all women who have a hormonal cycle can relate to what that feels like. With bipolar 1 disorder, the ups and downs are just more extreme.

I hate roller coasters. I don’t enjoy them or like how I feel when I’m riding them. I’m not scared of them, I just don’t like the feeling of my stomach dropping when you go down and being jerked around. You have no control over what is happening. I can’t say, “Stop! Slow down! I want off of this thing!” You may think that’s weird or I’m just a wimp or I can’t relax and just enjoy the ride. Who doesn’t like roller coasters?! Most people think they are fun! It’s just my personal preference. I avoid roller coasters!

It’s ironic that I have bipolar 1 disorder. I get to ride an emotional rollercoaster that is not in my control. I don’t get to choose when to get on or when to get off. I can’t stop it when it starts. I just have to hold on tight and pray that there aren’t too big of drops. I feel like screaming! (And sometimes I do, into my pillow! It helps!).

I feel powerless to control my moods. Having a mood disorder is hard!! I’m not complaining or being dramatic, I’m just being real. There is only so much I can do!

A little “pick me up” is not enough to pull me out of a depression. Pills don’t always take away the anxiety or stop the mania. Mania means I can’t shut off my brain. It is sped up and on hyper-drive. I can’t put on the brakes! It’s hard to sleep. My brain is full and I need an outlet. Exercise would help, but I can barely walk up the stairs. It wears me out. I’m so physically and emotionally drained right now. That is why I write!

How would you like to ride this rollercoaster?? Some of you are riding it with me! I’m closing my eyes and holding on tight, trying to feel secure through all the sharp turns and ups and downs. It’s a new one each time and I don’t know what to expect. I’m screaming my head off on the inside but trying to stay calm on the outside so I don’t freak people out! Is it over yet?? Can I get off of this thing?! How much longer?!

You may think, ‘Just relax and have fun!’ or, “Just rest and you’ll get better!’ If one more person says, “hey, you’ve got this!” or gives me a pep talk, I think I’ll scream!

This is not just a bad day. It is a living hell! This is not fun. I hate feeling like this! Mania makes me feel happy, but it also means I can’t sleep. Depression is debilitating and discouraging. I am emotionally and physically drained. I feel like I did when I was in labor, with the intensity and frequency increasing, but there is no epidural. There is no relief in sight. I don’t know how much longer I can ride this thing. I hope it slows down and evens out soon. I’m almost at my breaking point.

Last night, my husband held me tight as my anxiety sky-rocketed and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. My thoughts and emotions were confusing and scary and overpowering. Help!! I know he feels frustrated and powerless. I do too! I am sure he wishes he could fix this and make it stop. He wants his wife back. My kids want their mom back. I am trying to get through this! I want to get better! I am trying to be patient. It is hard when you are suffering.

I hope you don’t think I’m weak or strange to admit and share these things. I’m tired of holding it all in. Some of you get it. You have experienced something hard and you can relate. Mental illness is REAL and affects you physically and emotionally! It either makes you a fighter or it overcomes you.

As women, we feel things. I have found that in general, women are more in tune with their feelings and better able to express them. That’s not always the case, but I find that for me, I can connect and communicate easier with women than with men. They get me!

I also have men in my family who have learned how to connect emotionally. They know how to talk to and relate to women. They know how to listen, to emphasize, and to validate feelings. I am grateful to have brothers and a father who have that gift or who have learned that skill. (I think growing up with sisters and being married to a woman helps!). I don’t think this quality makes them less masculine. It makes them better men and more able to relate to others. Empathy is a true gift!

Some of us are born with the ability to empathize and relate to other’s feelings. Some of us learn empathy through our own suffering. Sometimes we learn it by watching others struggle and supporting them in it. Our world needs more empathy, kindness, and love!!

Do you know someone who is struggling right now? They may not know how to ask for what they need. It might be a hug. It might be a friend. It might be a listening ear. It might be a fun diversion. It might be a relaxing massage (I’m getting one tomorrow!!). It might just be loving and accepting them as they are right now, even with their weaknesses showing. Love them anyway and remind them of their strengths!! We all have gifts to share. Everyone is needed. We all have our own struggles. We can all be there for each other. We can create a loving, safe community where we can show our true colors and be who we were designed to be. No judgment–just love!

Thanks for loving me when I am weak and such a mess!! Thanks for listening to the rantings of a manic Becky. Thanks for reaching out and trying to lift burdens. Thank you for trying to understand. You are helping me get to get through this! I could never do this alone!!

Shared Consciousness

I see you.
I hear your cries.
I feel your pain.
My bowels are filled with compassion for you.
It feels too heavy to bear.

You are drowning.
I want to come running.
My body feels heavy.
I am weak.  I must rest.
I yearn for you, but I cannot come.

I am not your Savior.
Cry out to Him!
Save us now!  Hosanna!
Jesus, the Anointed One!

He is your Rescuer.
He is your Healer.
His blood atoned for you.
He feels your pain and bears the weight.
He has compassion for you.

If you call, He will come running!
He succors His people in their afflictions.
He made a covenant to save you, no matter the cost.
You are precious to Him.

There is no hurt He cannot understand.
There is no wound He cannot heal.
His love and mercy know no bounds.
His grace is sufficient and made perfect in weakness.
He is the One who saves.

Hosanna to the Lamb!

Learning to Advocate for Myself

I got sick this past week. After my depression hit, I then got hit with a nasty cold and sore throat. Gotta love this time of year! Here’s the funny thing– it was so much easier telling people, “I’m home sick with a cold” than it was to say, “I’m going through a depression right now”. With a cold or any other “physical” illness, you get more sympathy. People get it. They offer to help. They don’t expect you to get up and shake it off. They don’t think you are weak or lazy or just trying to get attention. They understand that you are truly sick and that you need time to rest and recover. Why don’t we do the same for someone who is dealing with a mental illness?

If there is one thing that having a mental illness has taught me (and continues to teach me!), it is that I must learn to speak up and advocate for myself. An “advocate” is someone who pleads on someone else’s behalf. In verb form, it means to stand up for, to speak up for, to plead for, to support, or to champion a person or cause. The Latin root literally means “to call” (to one’s aid).

For me, being my own advocate requires 3 things:

1. Honesty

First, being my own advocate means that I have to be honest with myself. Another term for this is “self-awareness”. Part of managing my mood disorder means tracking my mood and noticing patterns. I have to be self-aware and learn to recognize warning signs that I am starting to struggle. I have to know my own limits and listen to my body. Some of my personal warning signs include not being able to sleep, feeling more anxiety, feeling irritable, and pulling away from people.

Second, I need to be honest with others. When my mood starts to shift, I need to let my doctor and my family and trusted friends know. I have to say, “This is what I can handle right now, and this is what I can’t.” I have to speak up and say, “This is what I need.” This is easier said than done! I don’t want others to perceive me as needy, emotionally unstable, or weak. I just get sick sometimes, people! We all do. I’m fighting through it and I need a little extra support right now, but I’m going to be ok! I’ve been through this before and it will get better.

2. Tools/Resources

Over the years, I have learned new coping skills that help me to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. I’ve gotten really good at deep-breathing! I have been learning how to meditate and practice mindfulness. I am constantly trying to learn new things to help me take better care of my mental health. I take daily medication to help manage my mood and I have another that I can take as needed, for anxiety and panic attacks. I have things I can do, tools on my belt, to help myself when I start to struggle.

I also have to rely on other people. Sometimes my own coping skills just aren’t enough. I have to have a good support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals. I have the number for the Crisis Line in my phone in case I need to call. I’ve called them before at 4am, when I was wide awake and couldn’t sleep because I was having a manic episode. I just needed someone to talk to because everyone else I knew was asleep! Sometimes just a phone call helps. It makes me feel safe knowing that I am not alone and that there is always someone I can call if I need help.

3. Trust

Everyone I talk to who deals with mental illness is walking their own path. Even though we may have the same diagnosis or similar symptoms, we each experience mental illness differently. We are all in different places in our recovery. Yes, people want to help. Everyone has advice to share. But I have had to learn to trust my own instincts and follow my own path. I know what I need better than anyone else! I know what is going on in my body and mind. I know what helps me and what heals me. If I stop and listen, my body will tell me what I need. Sometimes it tells me, “Slow down. Take a break!” Today, when I was getting overwhelmed, it said, “Go on a walk.” Sometimes I feel the urge to write, share, or talk. Other times, I need to rest. When I listen to my own body, it reaffirms to myself that my needs matter. It teaches me to trust myself and my instincts. It shows that I love and respect and listen to myself!

For me, panic sets in when I feel like I can’t trust myself or others. When I feel like “I can’t do this!” or “I’m alone and I need help!”. The thought that most commonly triggers panic attacks for me is that “I’m not in control right now!” Learning to “let go” of the need to be in control and trusting that I can meet my own needs and that others are there to help has been a recurring lesson and part of my personal journey.

I also have had to learn to trust others. In times of struggle, I try to surround myself with people who know and love me and who don’t judge me for struggling. Establishing relationships of trust is so important! We all need to have people that we feel like we can trust and people we can call on when we need help! This past week, a few friends reached out to me. Some offered to help. Some asked for my help or advice, because they were struggling. And some asked me how they could best help a friend who was battling mental illness. Each of these people lifted me in some way. Knowing that I have good friends who care is empowering. Knowing that I am a trusted friend and a resource for others is so healing. It lets me know that my most difficult experiences can be turned into something good. Those struggles have prepared me to serve and help others. They have taught me empathy and compassion and given me a desire to run to the aid of those who struggle. It is humbling to realize that the Lord can use me (even when I am sick and struggling!) to help, encourage, guide, or strengthen someone else.

One thing that I am realizing is that when you learn to advocate for yourself and take care of your own needs, you can better advocate for and meet the needs of others! I want to be an advocate for those who deal with mental illness. And in order to help them in their time of need, I need to know how to take really good care of Becky! I need to be my own advocate. I’m learning, I’m on a journey, and things are getting brighter!

Why We Sometimes Pull Away

This is a hard post to write. I want to share some things with you. I want you to understand. It’s just so hard to be vulnerable right now. These past couple of days, I have been struggling to put into words how I feel. I’ve pulled back from blogging, partly because I didn’t know what to say. My words were gone and my brain felt muddled. But as I showered today, these simple words came to my mind–“Reach Out”. I resisted, because part of me doesn’t want to reach out right now. I just want to hide away for a bit, until I’m feeling stronger and more like myself. It’s not like me to feel this way or to pull away from people. In fact, it’s a red flag for me. I like being around people and I need them in my life! Right now I just need people to reach out to me. (Oh, that’s so hard to say!!)

On Sunday, my daughter was sick with a cold, fever, and cough. I stayed home from church to take care of her. My husband and other two children went to church without us. I was staying home because I needed to take care of my baby girl. But to be completely honest, I was kind of relieved to have an excuse not to go. I really didn’t feel up to it that day. It is hard to be around people when you are feeling down inside. I hate putting on a smile and pretending I’m fine when I’m not. I didn’t want people to know that I’m still struggling.

I have been thinking recently about anxiety and depression and how they tend to isolate us. It’s ironic, since having a strong support system is so critically important to someone dealing with mental illness! It’s as if our depression knows what will make us feel better and it tries to keep us from those things. It tells us to pull away. I know for a fact that I can’t do this alone. I know that I have people I can call. But sometimes, I start to feel like a burden. No one likes being around someone when they are depressed. Will they even notice if I fade into the background? Will anyone care?

The other day during my meditation, a deep emotional hurt rose to the surface of my consciousness. I wondered aloud, “Do people think I am too much?” Too emotional and erratic? Too up-and-down? Too needy? Too excited and exuberant? Too open? Too sensitive? Sharing too much? Posting too much? Reaching out too much, to the point of bugging people? I didn’t realize that I felt that way deep down. It was healing just to voice that hurt and acknowledge it. I realized that, deep down, I still cared about people’s approval of me. It’s a weakness that I’m working to overcome. But sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m lovable. I just want to be loved for who I am and not who others want me to be. I think that is something we all long for.

I started this blog in hopes that it would help others, but also that it would help me. And so far, it has. Through WordPress, I found a community of bloggers, like me, who are sharing their stories and fighting the stigma of mental illness. It was so encouraging to find them and to read their posts! I feel like I found my people! (My husband laughed when I told him that. But that’s how I feel!) Some of them are struggling with social anxiety or OCD. Some deal with depression. Some have bipolar disorder, like me. They are all doing something brave–they are trying to put mental illness into words. They are opening up and sharing with the world what it is like to live with a chronic mental illness. As I read their posts, I cry and laugh and think to myself, “Yes, that is how I feel too!! I’m not alone!” I needed that–to feel accepted and understood and part of a group of like-minded people. People who feel an urge to write and share and who want to make a difference.

I discovered that there are some excellent writers out there! Some passionate and brave people who have so much to offer the world! They inspire me! But they are struggling and sometimes hiding. They are battling with mental illness and encouraging each other to keep fighting. They are strong and talented and loving, but they are lonely. They feel misunderstood. They go through ups and downs and sometimes struggle to function day-to-day. Some of them have a community of online followers, but I wonder how many close friends they interact with in person. I hope they have a good support group, because it is so hard to battle mental illness alone. These people–they are so worth loving! They have so many gifts to share! I want you to know them and to be their friend. I want you to reach out, because the world is missing out on some incredible people!!

After church, I got a text from a friend. She had noticed that I wasn’t there and she was texting to check on me. Someone noticed! I told her that Maria was sick. I didn’t tell her that I was too. But just knowing that someone noticed I wasn’t there and missed me made me feel a little better.

Who do you know who is pulling away or hiding? Do you notice them not showing up to social activities? Are they less responsive to calls or texts? Are they not calling you or posting online or reaching out as often? Do you reach out to them to let them know that you missed them? Are you the kind of friend that reaches out and lets others know that you want them in your life? Sometimes people need to hear you say it. They need to know that you care about them personally and that you love them just the way they are. I am normally one who reaches out. I need connection like I need food to eat and air to breathe! But when I pull away, it’s a sign that I might be struggling.

I don’t expect you to read all my posts and comment on them. I don’t expect you to call or text me. (But it’s nice when you do!) I don’t expect you to always be aware of my mood state and be on constant alert. I don’t expect you to come and rescue me when I’m depressed. I’ll try to let you know when I need help. I’m ok today. I just want you to know how I am feeling today because I believe that you care. I believe that you are my friend. I feel your concern and I see you reaching out. Thank you for loving me! Thank you for calling and texting just to check in. Thanks for listening and for accepting me just as I am. And to all you other bloggers out there, let’s keep fighting the fight!

Healing Emotional Wounds

This is something that I have wanted to blog about for awhile now–the emotional component of mental illness. There is still so much that I don’t understand about mental illness and about my own diagnosis. Why does this happen? Why do I feel so powerless to control it? What is going on in my body and mind to create these physical, mental, and emotional symptoms? How do I heal from this? How can I fix this? Will I ever get better or will I continue to cycle again and again? I am learning and I am observing and trying to figure it all out. Maybe someday things will make more sense. I do feel like there are answers out there and ways to heal all of the broken parts of me. I feel like I am putting together a large puzzle. I am given one small piece at a time and I have to find where it fits. I still have so much more to learn! But at the same time, I am learning. And I am starting to see some things that I didn’t before.

Learning to manage my mood disorder is like learning to be a weather forecaster. No one can control the weather. But as human beings, we like to understand things and see patterns and make predictions, because it makes us feel more “in control” of the situation. It helps us to prepare better or know what to expect. You can’t always predict shifts in the weather. Sometimes you see them coming, but you don’t know when the storm will hit. That’s what my mood shifts are like. Sometimes there are obvious stressors or “triggers”. Sometimes I can feel things building up and I know a storm is coming. Sometimes I am just going along and get hit out of the blue. Sometimes multiple triggers hit at once!

January turned out to be the perfect storm. Winters are typically a hard time of year for me. I entered into a depressive episode mid-January. It happened slowly and it took me a few days to recognize it. I was struggling, but still managing to take care of things at that point. Then last week I got hit hard with the flu. It wiped me out for two days. I literally couldn’t get out of bed! I felt so helpless and tired and sick. My depression got worse, and my anxiety sky-rocketed. I was irritable and on-edge. The higher levels of anxiety meant that my mind was too active at night to settle down, which led to several nights with little to no sleep. And for me, that’s bad. Because getting no sleep triggers manic episodes. The cycle just continues!

My husband took three days off work to be home with me and help with the kids. I was completely checked out and unable to do much. I could barely get out of bed and feed myself. I couldn’t take care of the kids or meet their needs. All I could do was rest and try to take care of me. I talked on the phone to a few family members and friends, which always makes me feel better. It took all the energy I had just to take a shower. But it felt nice to feel the warm water on my skin and to brush my hair. It was just exhausting!

On Monday, I went to see my doctor. I begged her to up my meds so I could get a handle on things–I was really struggling! But I felt like both she and my husband minimized my symptoms and thought things would even out. (It’s ok, it’s hard to tell what’s really going on from the outside!). They wanted to just wait to see if things got better on their own. “Give it another two weeks,” she said. I knew I couldn’t make it another two weeks if things kept going the way they were. Two weeks sounded like an eternity! It made me feel frustrated. I just want to get back to feeling like me! After I insisted, she agreed to up the dose. We picked up my new prescription and went home.

The next day, my husband went back to work. He can’t stay home forever, and I wanted to try. I told myself, “I can do this!!” I wanted so badly to get better!! I tried to push through the exhaustion and get up and start being a mom again. I kept things simple. Cereal for breakfast. Frozen pizza for lunch. I took Helam to school in the morning, but once we got there he said he still had a cold and wanted to stay home. We turned around and drove back home. I was too tired to drive Lily to school in the afternoon. I was still in my pajamas. I couldn’t get out of my car and face all of the other parents. I couldn’t smile and pretend like I was ok. I really wasn’t.

My friend gave Lily a ride to school. I promised Lily that I would be there to pick her up. I put Maria down for a nap and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. Luckily Helam is able to entertain himself. I was grateful for his presence, because I didn’t want to be alone. I called him into my room at one point in desperation, asking him to hold his mommy and pray for her. I needed someone to comfort me and hold me and let me know I would be alright. I felt bad asking my 7-year-old to be that person, but he gladly obliged! Maybe it was a good thing that he stayed home. I needed his presence!

I was determined to keep my promise to Lily. I reached out to a few family members and my husband to let them know where I was at. (Really struggling!!) Then I packed my two kids in the car and drove to the school to get Lily. It started snowing. I felt like I wasn’t really in my body. Like I was detached or disconnected somehow. I felt numb. I started to feel really paranoid and afraid that something bad was going to happen. I knew I probably shouldn’t be driving, but we got to the school safely.

The school pick up area stresses me out. All of the parents are trying to find spots along the curb. They don’t let you in. They honk and zoom past you if you slow down. It sent me into a panic attack. Lily got in the car and we turned on our Harry Potter cd. I tried to stay calm and breathe. As I drove home, I knew I couldn’t make it all the way home. I needed to pull over. I told Helam to call Daddy and tell him to meet us at the library. I made it there and pulled over to the side of the road. I turned on my emergency lights. When my husband arrived, I couldn’t even talk. I just moved over to the passenger seat, shaking.

The rest of the day didn’t get much better. I held things together for the kids. I tried to act calm on the outside. I even read them bedtime stories and we laughed together. But once the kids were in bed and my husband came down to talk to me, I lost it. I started sobbing uncontrollably and shaking. I told him I felt like screaming. I was so scared and felt like I was going to die. All of the emotions I had been holding in came spilling out. I asked him to just hold me and reassure me. I was so tired, but worried that I was too worked up and wouldn’t be able to sleep. I didn’t want to be up alone at night like this, while everyone else slept. I felt like I had reached my breaking point.

I felt God saying to me, “Becky, just let go. I’ll catch you. It’s ok.” I thought back to the time when my oldest son fell out our 3rd story apartment window. He could have died, but miraculously he just came away with a few scratches on his back. I know he had angels watching out for him! Even though he was ok, that experience was really traumatic for me. It really shook me up and made me feel like the world was a scary, unsafe place. My home, which was supposed to our safe haven, was no longer protected in a bubble. My safe little world shattered that day. I couldn’t protect my children. They could die at any moment, under my watch. Even when I’m trying my best to take care of them. I must not be a very good mom, because it was my idea to crack the window and let in some fresh air. If he had died, I could never have forgiven myself.

A counselor explained to me once that “trauma” isn’t just something that war veterans or rape victims experience. Trauma is any life experience that made us feel afraid and unsafe. It creates emotional wounds, which have physical and emotional responses when triggered. For me, that was when I started having panic attacks. It took a long time for me to feel “normal” again. But part of me has never been the same. My view of myself and my identity as a mother changed that day. It made me doubt my abilities and my gifts. It diminished my belief in myself and affected my sense of self-worth. It is one of my biggest triggers now–feeling like I’m not cutting it as a mother and like I can’t do my job.

My husband stayed up with me until I was able to fall into a drug-induced sleep. It was still a rough night, but I got some sleep. And since he was home I could sleep in the next morning. Sometimes that’s when I get my best sleep–from about 6am to 9am. I know, it’s weird. But I think I feel safe because other people are awake and nearby.

I still feel tired–I am physically and emotionally drained. Still a little numb. But I feel like I just needed to sob and release all of that pent up emotion. I needed to feel all of those strong emotions and release them somehow. I needed to be held and reassured and comforted. I still have many things inside that need to heal and I am trying to find ways to heal them.

I am hoping that once my higher dose of meds kicks in, things will even out. It usually takes a week or two. I am taking it a day at a time. I am grateful for modern medicine and good doctors. I am just learning that medicine doesn’t HEAL things. So I am trying to do other things as well to heal my body and mind and address my emotional and spiritual wounds.

I am finding things that help me heal–music, writing, self-reflection, counseling, connection with others, empathy, a good cry, sharing my story, working on false negative beliefs, hugs, talking with a friend, service, etc. Exercise helps me a TON, but I’ve been too exhausted to do much lately other than stretching. I miss it!

A wise physician once said, “The best medicine for humans is love.” Someone asked, “What if it doesn’t work?” He smiled and said, “Increase the dose.”


Emotional wounds hurt, but they can heal. We have to identify them and re-write our inner scripts. I have to tell myself every day that I am a good mom. I ask my kids and my husband to tell me that too. I keep saying it, hoping that it will sink in and that I’ll start to believe it. There is still work for me to do and things for me to process. Sometimes I might break down or have a panic attack when those broken, vulnerable parts of me are triggered. Be patient with me. Just be kind. I am fragile right now. But I am also strong. I’m fighting and I’m not giving up!

Why We All Need “Grace Days”

This morning I felt my energy returning. I finally got back to the gym for my 30 minute morning workout! It felt amazing! My depression is starting to lift and I have to hold myself back from sprinting forward in excitement! One step at a time, Becky.

I have learned that even when I am trying to live in a healthy way and faithfully taking medication to help keep me stable, depression and anxiety can pop up without warning and knock me off track. I am trying to learn how to roll with it and how to slow down when I feel myself slipping. I have had to learn to be flexible! Because I have a mood disorder, I have to pay careful attention to my mental/emotional state and make adjustments as necessary. If I feel overly stressed, anxious, or tired, I need to pay attention! I need to respond to what my body is trying to tell me. If I don’t, things just get worse. Really, it’s no different than noticing that you are coming down with a cold and taking a few “sick days” until you are up and running again. You could call it a “mental health day” but I kind of hate the distinction. Mental illness is an illness that affects you mentally, emotionally, and yes, physically. Depression sucks the energy right out of you! A sick day is a sick day, whether it is due to a “mental” or “physical” illness. Mental health and physical health are closely intertwined!

A year or so ago, I came up with the term “grace day” to give myself permission to slow down and take care of myself when I’m struggling. I say to myself, “It’s a grace day/week! It’s ok that I’m not accomplishing as much! I’m sick! No expectations. No judgment.” Instead of beating myself up for feeling depressed and for struggling so much, I take a sick day (or week, or month!). It’s harder when you’re a mom with young kids at home, but I have learned that I need to take care of me! On my “grace days”, I slow down, simplify, and try to focus on the basics. I depend more on my spouse. I also reach out to close friends and family and ask for help. I clear my calendar of anything that doesn’t need to happen that week. This week, I rescheduled my kids dentist appointments and made an appointment with my counselor instead. It was what I needed to do! I think we all need “grace days”–days when we slow down and rely on help and forgive ourselves for being weak.

Maria Grace is my third baby. I chose her middle name, not knowing that the year following her birth would be a rough one and I would need to rely a lot on God’s grace! Grace is a gift from God. It is “divine aid” that He sends to us in our time of need. He gives us strength when we are weak. He sends His mercy and unconditional love and hope to us when we struggle. He does not abandon us or leave us alone! I need His grace every day. My mental illness reminds me of that. It reminds me to depend on God and others when I feel weak. He makes me strong!

After yet another battle with anxiety and depression, I know that I can pick myself up and move forward. I know that I can get back up and start again, because I have in the past. I can do this! I also know that I have people in my life who love me and “have my back”. I am not alone and I can rely on others when I need help. This knowledge is empowering and it gives me hope! It helps me to see that I am healing and making progress, even if I continue to stumble. “Animo!” (Look it up, it’s my favorite Spanish word!)

The Ups & Downs of Bipolar I Disorder

It’s hard being a goal-oriented person and living with a mood disorder! Depression can show up at any time and disrupt all of my well-laid plans. Mania can send me into an upward spiral that feels good at first, but can quickly get out of control. Sometimes I feel like I’m riding a roller-coaster… while trying to slowly sip hot tea and write out my autobiography by hand. Yeah, good luck!

I was first diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder three years ago, after giving birth to my third baby. It was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced what is called a “manic episode”. (That’s just a medical term for an extremely “up” or elevated mood–think the opposite of depression.) People with bipolar 1 disorder (yes, there is more than one type!) experience both extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). During a manic episode, my mind feels sped up. I feel super energetic, I have a mind full of creative ideas, I talk faster, I can’t sit still, I can’t sleep, I feel ecstatically happy, and I feel like I am invincible. Sounds nice, right? I’ll admit, I love the part of mania that makes me feel excited, energetic, and happy! It’s fun for a day or two, but getting no sleep days on end can turn things scary fast. My over-active mind made me constantly distracted, on-edge, and obsessive. It soon turned from extreme happiness to extreme anxiety, fear, and paranoia. I even started experiencing delusions, which are strongly held irrational beliefs. I lived for 3 or 4 months in escalating mania (not knowing what it was), and let me tell you, it was no picnic! I ended up in the hospital where I finally got much-needed medical help and an official diagnosis.

For me, receiving a diagnosis was a relief (I finally knew what was wrong!), but it also came with feelings of shame, stigma, isolation, and fear of what others might think. No one wants to be labeled with a mental illness. Why it is viewed so differently than other physical illnesses, I simply don’t understand. Last I checked, the brain is part of the physical body too! When the brain (your command center) isn’t functioning correctly, it affects every part of you–your thinking and ability to reason, your moods and emotions, your energy levels, your appetite, your ability to sleep, etc!

With time, I am learning to accept my diagnosis. I feel a strong desire and need to talk about it and share my story, but it’s still hard, especially when I don’t know what people’s reactions will be. Initially I felt pretty vulnerable and it was hard to share, but I have reached a point now where I just don’t care about what others think. (At least not enough to stop me from writing and sharing and speaking out!). I care more about the people who are struggling and who feel alone and misunderstood.

I have found many things that help me manage my mood. I’m not either “depressed” or “manic” all of the time–most of the time I am just in-between. But things can always change, and most of the time those changes are unpredictable. I don’t need “fixing” and I don’t need constant help, I just need love and support. Those are the best two things you can offer to someone who deals with mental illness!

One of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital three years ago was to start researching and learning all I could about bipolar 1 disorder. I learned a lot and it helped me to feel better, especially reading the experiences of others. Bipolar disorder may be a life-long diagnosis, but personally I don’t think of myself as “bipolar”. It is not “who I am” and it is not how I would choose to introduce myself. It is not an adjective to describe me or a core part of my personality. It is simply a mental and physical condition–something that often gets in the way of me feeling and acting like myself!

Let’s stop adding to the stigma! Please don’t use the term “bipolar” to describe someone who is acting “moody”! The best way to help a friend or family member with bipolar disorder (or with any mental illness) is to take the time to listen, to ask questions, to withhold judgment and preconceived ideas, and to take the time to learn about their disorder. You may just learn something new!