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A humble ask

Hi friends,

Nearly a year ago I started working for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Madison, WI (where I live). We recently held our annual WALK fundraiser, which is a 5k to raise awareness about mental illness and reduce stigma.

Our fundraising goal is $190k to go towards education and support programs for people affected by mental illness. So far, we’ve raised $161k and have just over a month left to raise the remaining 30k.

So, I’m doing my part  and making another pitch to my family, friends, and followers. If you’re reading this and have not already done so, I humbly ask you to make a difference and support our cause by making a gift to my team today.

No amount is too small – I’ve had friends forgo one of their daily, fancy $5 Starbucks drinks for the week and I will say it adds up quickly!

Please know that your support means the world and helps shine a much-needed light on mental illness.

Here is the link to make a donation to my WALK team (you can make it public or anonymous). And, many thanks in advance!

https://www.namiwalks.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=32307

 

 

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Journey to baby

Growing up, I assumed I’d get married and have children. As I’ve progressed through my 20s, though, my attitude towards marriage is more of ambivalence and genuine disinclination than desire. On the other hand, my desire to be a mom has been unwavering.

While I would love to share the experience of raising a child, I haven’t yet found a compatible partner to share my life with and I don’t know when that will happen. I also don’t want to get married just for the sake of having a kid; it wouldn’t be the right decision for me or my child and in many ways I feel I would be robbing him/her of something special.  

And so, after a year of researching the choice mom movement and working to reach a healthy place in my recovery, I have made the conscious and deliberate decision to parent on my own via donor insemination.

The motivation behind this decision has nothing to do with the ticking biological clock so many women talk about (I am only 28, after all) nor does it have anything to do with believing there isn’t a compatible partner out there for me (I have faith there is and hopefully one day I’ll meet him).

What my choice to be a mom does have everything to do with is LOVE.

To be able to bring a child into this world and wrap my arms around them fills my heart with so much joy and peace. I am ready emotionally, spiritually, and financially to do this and I don’t want to wait. 

I am aware that being a single mom is not easy. You are everything all of the time and not having someone there to co-parent will be overwhelming and hard. I know this. But the one thing every single parent out there has told me is that it is all worth it.

Over the last week, I’ve been able to share my decision with several family members and close friends after getting the go-ahead from my psychiatrist. While I prepared myself for both positive and negative reactions, I am thankful they have all shown me unconditional support and are genuinely excited for me.

My first consultation visit with the fertility specialist is in two weeks and in 4-6 months I will undergo my first insemination. I know this journey will be an emotional and sometimes challenging one, but knowing I am not alone means the world to me.

I am so blessed!

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An open letter to my future husband about my mental illness

I just spent the last three days getting trained by NAMI to be a Family-to-Family teacher, which is a free education program for family members who have a loved one living with a mental illness. Out of the 17 people in my training group, I was the only one who both lived with a mental illness and had family members with a mental illness.

It was an intensely emotional experience but more than anything it opened my eyes to the struggles my family have gone through in dealing with my mental illness, particularly for my parents. I was incredibly humbled to listen to other families’ experience and I had so much compassion for them. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own emotions that I forget they are going through their own turmoil. Recognizing that prompted me to write letters to some of the people who have played key roles in my recovery and who were there every step of the way during my last depressive episode – my worst one yet. I won’t share those letters here because they are personal and private, but I did write one to my future husband (I hope you exist) and thought I would share it here.

Dear Future Husband,

At some point in our life together you will have to play the role of caregiver. When you find yourself in this role, my emotional well-being may overshadow your own. I am truly sorry for this. Promise me when this happens, you will take time out for yourself. Do not feel guilty or ashamed to ask for help from our family and friends. If you need help cooking meals or cleaning the house or watching the kids, they will be there. They support you. They support me. Go to the movies. Get a massage. Go to a therapist and say all the things you are bottling up inside without guilt. Hell, take a mini-vacation and go to the beach. I know that as exhausting as handling a mental illness is for me, it is equally exhausting for you. Take care of your mind, body, and soul.

I promise to always be truthful with you and to communicate my concerns, feelings, and anxieties. We both know at this point that sometimes I struggle with paranoia and feel I cannot trust you. I may even believe that what you are telling me is a lie. Do not take it personally. It is the darkness telling me that and I know, deep down, it is not true. It is a scary and difficult emotion to handle when you believe the person you deeply love is deceiving you. Reassure me that I can trust you. Tell me that you love me.

In the same regard, I promise to always listen to your concerns, feelings, and anxieties without judgment. Your feelings are valid and keeping our communication alive will create a safe space in our marriage for both of our voices to be heard.

When you witness one of my downward spirals, your first inclination will be to fix it for me. I know that because you would do anything to protect those you love. But honey, you cannot fix it for me. It is a brain disorder and it is something completely out of our control. There is no handbook on how to handle this but we are both handling it the best way we know how.

I imagine during those times you will also question if the darkness’s emergence is your fault. Maybe you feel guilty and question what you could have done differently to catch the signs earlier. Do not blame yourself and please don’t feel guilty. In all likelihood, I probably downplayed my feelings. Like you, I am a fierce protector and my first instinct is to shield you from any hurt and pain I may cause you.

I promise you I will make every effort to stay well and to take responsibility to get help when I am sick. I will take my medication religiously. I will see my therapist and exercise regularly. I will go to support groups. I will voluntarily go to the hospital if you, or I, feel like it is the best thing for me to get stable again. I will not fight you. I will do all this not just for you but for our children too because you are the most important people in my life.

I will take every chance I get to remind you that you are an incredible human being. I love your heart and your mind and your soul. I love that you accept me exactly as I am, even the things that drive you crazy. Like having to clean up after me because I am so messy or my over-obsessive tendencies or the fact I keep my enormous kayak in the living room.

If we ever reach that point where you find me slipping away, take comfort in knowing I will always come back to you. I am a fighter and my love for you is far stronger than the darkness.

Love,

Your future wife

 

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My Obliterated Place

I haven’t written in a few weeks because I can’t seem to write this post right. So I resolved to writing a list of all my thoughts because it somehow makes writing about this subject easier. Fair warning the material is intense and sad and probably terrifying to anyone who reads it. The truth: I’m depressed. It makes me feel weak and I’m afraid that being open about it will make others think I am weak. But writing about it is also empowering because then my grief doesn’t defeat me and it doesn’t suck my soul.

  1. I am sad and I am heartbroken. I would rather feel what everyone else wants me to feel which is anger and hatred and yet I can’t feel either. Why can’t I feel that way?
  2. Sometimes, I trick myself and others into thinking I’ve made progress. I am adept at making it look easy because I do everything I should be doing. I’m active, I go on dates, I explore, I spend time outdoors and with friends and family. No one who doesn’t know me well enough ever sees anything more than a happy, smiling girl. This is a façade. A big fat façade.
  3. Regardless, I have to figure out a way to come to terms with where I’m at. Things fall apart. They will fall back together. They have before and they will again. They already are.
  4. 26 – It’s the age at which everything in my life has forcibly changed. If I could peel back 26 and then 25 and 24 and 23 and 22. I would. I would peel it all back and reverberate back to the day I could choose the path I was on or choose the one I took. I wouldn’t have chosen either. I would have forged a third path and created a new adventure. One that lets me skip all the shit of 22 to 26.
  5. The other day, my mom told me the story of her hair dresser whose mom has a brain tumor. The tumor was removed with surgery but later it came back and invaded parts of her brain that the doctors can’t operate on. This woman’s tumor has completely taken over her mind to where the woman this family has known for so long is no longer recognizable. She believes her husband of 37 years is evil and she’s so incredibly scared to be alone with him. She tells him she hates him and refuses to let him help her. She doesn’t remember her eldest daughter and calls her a liar when she tries to show pictures of their life growing up. She only remembers her youngest daughter, this woman who cuts my Mom’s hair and who recently had a baby and who took the baby to visit her mom who steadfastly believes her daughter stole the baby and thinks she should give it back. This sweet, wonderful woman her family has known their whole lives is no longer present or sound of mind and in fact scares everyone to the point they think she may actually hurt someone or worse herself. This is suffering. This is pain and its grief. And it is far worse circumstances than my own. And yet – I still ask why me? You may wonder the significance of this story but when I think of my grief and how selfish and foolish I feel this is what I think of.
  6. Many days (like today) I have to remind myself that everything is going to be okay. I tell myself that I am loved. So incredibly loved. Even if another person does not love me back and instead loves someone else, I am loved.
  7. This morning I cried for two hours curled up in the fetal position on the hard wood floor of my parent’s bedroom, crying so hard and deep and gasping for air all while my best friend sat silently on the other end of the line and didn’t judge me or tell me I’m better off or to get over myself. When I say that I am loved, this is love. The “I’m here to share in your shit even though I have no idea what to say or do except to sit here and let you cry” kind of love that only comes from friends who know when to say something and when to just let you be when you are pinned by your own suffering. The kind of friendship where no words are required, just presence.
  8. When I feel this way the only thing that saves me is to breathe. Deep breaths in and deep breaths out. I did this for a long while. Even after said friend was off the phone. I lay on the floor and I watched the fan as it went round and round just focusing on my breathing. This is what works for me. Eventually I got up. I always get up. I always get going.
  9. I’ve resolved to writing letters to myself everyday in my promise to Elizabeth Gilbert to be so good to myself. Today I wrote, “I’m sorry your heart is crushed. There are better days ahead. There is better love to be found.”
  10. I actually believe that too.

 

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Goodbye, hello

“I always knew you would leave.”

In a series of goodbyes, this is perhaps the one that sticks with me the most. Goodbye may have been inevitable, even predictable to those who know me best, but it hasn’t made the process of picking up my life any easier. In fact, intentionally letting go is kind of excruciating. 

The day I left Missouri, I stood in the middle of my empty living room bawling. We are often taught to move forward without looking back, to stay strong, and to hold back tears. But in that moment, I allowed myself to be heartbreakingly present in the memories and attachment I have to my home, to those I’ve loved, and to those I’ve ultimately lost because of my decision to leave.

Moving was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make but it has also forced me to be the most honest, raw, and vulnerable version of myself. I craved love, adventure, change, new perspective, a deeper connection with someone, and I really just wanted to feel like I mattered – that what I did meant something and was valued by others. I recognized that my current circumstances weren’t allowing me to get where I wanted to be. I wasn’t in a place where I felt like I had the tools to be happy. And the only way I knew how to change that was to close one chapter and make room for a new one.

In all honesty, I feel fear and grief every day. I have felt it throughout the entire process. But I’m embracing it and moving toward it. There are days I’m convinced I’ve made the right decision and I’m incredibly excited for all these new opportunities. Then there are days I’m a complete emotional wreck and wonder what I’m doing. Why didn’t I think this through more? But one thing I’m coming to understand is that there really are no wrong decisions in life. There are just experiences.

This is perhaps the most raw and vulnerable part of me. I’ve said goodbye to the old so that I can make room for the new. A free-spirit, I’ve never been one to take the straight path in life and now I realize I’m figuring out my way home. It may be the long route but for all the fear and grief it brings, I know it makes room for joy and peace too.

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