Thursday, May 26, 2016

Edgy

Do you ever feel edgy?

I'd say that's the best way to describe how I've been feeling the past several days.

I wouldn't say I'm in a bad mood. And while exhausted, I wouldn't say that "tired" is my primary symptom/emotion/state of being.

I just find myself gettin' a little, well, edgy, when things start to slip out of alignment.

Car moving too slow ahead of me?

Here comes the edge.

Cross stitch thread knotting when it shouldn't?

Edge.

Waiting for Alex to prepare the salad so I can dump the chick peas out of the colander and put the strawberries in the colander (don't ask)?

EDGE!!!!

I've also been finding myself fluctuating between feeling stressssssssed to "I've GOT THIS!".

One minute I'm biting my fingernails (figuratively, if I actually bit my nails) in worry, overwhelmed by all that must be done, and the next I'm walking down the hallways of the office like a BOSS.

Did I mention I'm going to be out of town the next three weekends?

So many loose ends to coordinate at work, gotta get the cat coordinated with various sitters, take the trash out so the apartment doesn't reek when I return.

I conked out on Alex's couch last night.

The night before? Hour plus nap after work.

I'm being tested to my core. I know, I know, I get to travel, and that's where most of this stress is coming from -- preparing to be away from my home, job, and pet for a bit. I know I'm privileged.

But I also know that I'm tired.

Because I can feel the edge. It surprises me each time, as if I suddenly become the Hulk, when I thought I was just Bruce Banner. I mean, Bailey Brewer.

This tiny little rage pops up, not enough to make my skin hot, but enough to take me aback and ask, "Bails, what's the deal?"

I'm hoping to get drinks with a beloved pal tonight. It might be stressful to cram one more thing in the calendar, but I also think some laughs and a couple cold ones might be the ticket to smooth my edges.

Over and out,
Bailey

Monday, May 23, 2016

31 things I learned from cross stitching

Ta dah! Traditional birthday blog! Yay! (Or Not Yay, depending on your attitude about these annual posts). If you're interested in the archives, here are my 28th, 29th, and 30th year posts.

This year, I thought I'd mix it up a little and compose a list of 31 things that one of my favorite pastimes, cross stitching, has taught me about life. If you dare, read on.

[Also, none of the pictures in this post are stock photos; they are pictures of items in my own stitching collection -- get ready to cringe at how many things I have stitched (and remember there's plenty more where this came from. Yikes.).]

1. Thank your elders. 

When I was 10, the mother of a childhood friend bought me my first cross stitch kit. She spent an evening teaching me and her daughter all the skills I would need to continue on in this very happy hobby of mine. So, Jill Bell, wherever you are, let me offer a very sincere Thank You, for so patiently spending time with me on that fateful night, circa 1995.

You may lose touch with certain people in your life (I desperately want to find my 5th grade teacher who told me to "Keep writing"), but thank the ones who are still within your reach. Our words go so much farther than we can imagine.

2. Appreciate the picture slowly unfolding before you.

I've often described cross stitching as the slowest way to build an image -- hundreds of tiny stitches covering tiny, graph-paper-like canvas, slowly, slowly create a picture. So why do I bother with it?

Well, I love being able to see my progress, no matter the tempo at which it comes. Five minutes spent stitching with red thread and Voila! Ernie the Muppet has a nose. Several hours later and his pal Bert comes into existence.

Your future will never be clear, and you will find yourself asking what the EFF am i doing with myself and my life? Look around at the canvas, and enjoy what's there. Look forward to the final image, but enjoy the progress and the process of getting there.

3. Seek out joy.

Stitch Muppets! A friendly dragon! A turtle with a snail on its back!


Why? Because these cute little nuggets make people happy! Do things that make you and others happy, plain and simple. Doing so keeps us all going.

4. Know that a little tension is helpful. 

In cross stitch, we use embroidery hoops to hold our fabric taut. It is so much easier to sew for long periods of time when your canvas is pulled tight.

Too much tension in life is bad, yes. But a little stress, a little fire under you to get yourself moving and chasing after the things you love? Not so bad. If you feel yourself getting bored, take some action. It may feel like unwanted effort to get started, but you'll thank yourself later.

5. Spend some time with yourself.

Look. We need -- NEED -- each other. We are made for community, and I will wag my little finger at you as much as I have to to get the point across that you SHANT MAKE YOURSELF ISOLATED.

But if you move too fast and never stop to get to know yourself, you might get a little sad, a little confused about who you are and where you fit in this world. So take some time to figure out what makes you tick.

(And find a hobby like cross stitching that helps you to reset. Something that makes the time pass without you realizing it, during which you can think quietly about things that are important to you.)

6. Use your resources to make friends.

What do I do with my leftover lengths of embroidery thread? I make friendship bracelets, of course!

This world is teeming with people who can make you happy, who are out there waiting to meet you. Get out there and meet 'em. Connect. Love. And relish it all.

7. Don't worry how the back of your canvas looks.

The front of a cross stitch project looks like this:


The back looks like this:


The interworkings of our minds are sometimes going to be a mess. We all may look like we've got it together on the outside, but allllll of us are asking questions about who we are, whether we're good enough, are we going in the right direction, did we take a wrong turn?

You're good enough. And you're right where you're meant to be.

Love yourself, and know that we all have knots inside of us. Don't let that interfere with your ability to shine and share your own, unique beauty with the world.

8. Embrace your old soul.

For me, my old soul comes through in my voracious reading, my 8:00 bedtime, and, you guessed it, my incessant stitching.

If something makes you quirky or doesn't quite fit with your generation, who cares? Whatever it is is too precious to be lost, so latch onto it and run with it.

And go to bed at 8 if you want. You have my, the birthday girl's, official permission.

9. Give, give, give. (And spoil babies).

By and large, I give my stitching projects away as gifts. (I know, I'm practically a nun.) They make people so happy, and cliche as it is, that makes me happy.

Most of what I stitch, too, are baby bibs or things to hang in nurseries.

If you don't give things, give of yourself. Your time, your listening ear, your spare bedroom when someone comes in town to visit. You won't regret it.


10. Remember that life is not a coloring book. Fill it with color, even if there aren't clear lines drawn for you.

In cross stitch, we stitch all of our X's (hence the name, cross stitch) first. Then at the very end, we add in that black outline stitching to make the image pop and become more defined.

Almost done...


...annnd, done!


My Pops reminds me that I have to chase my dreams, "because they won't chase you."

Don't wait for someone to draw lines for you to fill in. Just do what feels best, what adds color and good vibes to your life. God willing, the clarity of whether you're doing the right thing will eventually follow.

11. Don't limit yourself to one thing.

Abby refers to my cross stitch as my "crack," because I am, well, fine, addicted to it.

But if I do "crack" for too long in one sitting, I get sad. In addition to a hobby that brings me much contentment, I need people. And words, and food, and fresh air and exercise.

Mental Health Management 101: don't let yourself sit too long doing any one thing. Change your activity, and change your scenery. Otherwise you might start to feel down or simply agitated. You can always come back to that book you're obsessively reading, but stepping away from it temporarily will increase your longevity.

Also get out tha house. Love on people and let them love on you.

12. If the cat lies on your work, don't get mad. Take a break. 

Max is famous for lying on my stitching supplies just after I set them out for use. This is not always my favorite thing.

But then I take in his cute face and my annoyance melts away. He wants to be near me, and that's sweet.

If a pet, or a child, crawls into your lap, just soak it up. Soak, soak, soak.


13. Take time to organize, but don't lose yourself in a mess.

The case that holds my embroidery floss is one of the few corners of my life that is organized. And even that gets sloppy at times.

Being a messy person has occasionally caused me to truly feel bad about myself.

But you know what? Clean room or no, I have lived. I don't look back on any one of my positive experiences and wish I had instead spent that time making my bed.

Sure, sometimes you just have to refresh the cat litter, but try not to beat yourself up if things around you aren't up to the Martha Stewart standard. (I particularly offer this advice to parents of young kiddos. Trust me, you're doing a great job, even if your living room is strewn with toys.)

14. Life is your canvas. Roam around on it however feels right to you.

There are two major varieties of cross stitch: counted, where you follow a graph to create your picture; and stamped, where the image is printed on the fabric and you use thread to match the colors of the pre-printed ink.

And then, there are people who just whip out blank graph paper and make their own patterns.

Whether you're someone who likes rules, someone who needs a guide, or someone who needs to blaze her own trail, guess what? It's all cross stitch (or, ya know, getting the job done) in the end. Just do what ya gotta do to be you, and enjoy the ride.


15. If you can, take on an affordable hobby.

My collection of cross stitch kits is out of hand, I admit.

But the pastime is relatively cheap. A kit, on average, is about 15 bucks, and one kit takes me several days or weeks (or months or years) to complete.

I mean, do what you gotta do, and if it costs a bit, then Godspeed to you. But try and find something that you can do in times of both richer and poorer.

16. Wet your whistle.

As a cross stitcher, I always moisten the end of my thread with some good old fashioned spit to better thread the eye of my needle.

So I keep myself hydrated, with an adult beverage, some fizzy water, coffee.

Drink lots of water, and make lots of coffee (or cocktail) dates with your pals. The former will keep you feeling even and, well, so will the latter.

17. Use a writing utensil to mark your path.

I use a marker to indicate on my cross stitch graphs the stitches I've completed. It keeps me from getting off course, and prevents re-counting of squares I've already counted.


And I write about my experiences. Not so much my cross stitch experiences, but my other life experiences. Now, you don't have to be a writer, but take some time to document your journey. Journal, blog, write a letter. Writing helps us process confusing times, and the research shows that it helps us remember, too.

18. Keep your hands busy. 

If you find that you can't turn your mind off, turn your hands on.

I (obviously) do this quite often by way of stitching. But there are approximately 8 billion other things you can do with your hands to combat anxiety that may be creeping into your life.

Anxiety's pretty darn common (and so is depression), so don't lose heart if they visit you. But know that they don't have to rule you. The transfer from head to hands is extremely powerful in adjusting our thoughts from negative to positive.

19. Don't doubt it: Eyes really are windows to the soul.

Let's play Spot the Zombie for a sec:


If you guessed Daisy Duck, you would be correct! Why? Because the girl's got no eyes!

Until I add pupils to the characters I stitch, they exude very little personality.

Let's have some real talk for a sec: eye contact can be a little weird. There's a reason it makes us squirmy and urges us to look away. Because it's important.

Pay attention to your friends' eyes, and facial expressions. There may be something there that they're not telling you out loud.

20. Sometimes life will be bland, and you just have to get through those parts.

I loooove to stitch. But I haaaaate to stitch white thread onto a white canvas.

Oh, my poor eyes.

Not to mention it's booooring. I always want to be stitching in color.

My dear friend Courtney and I have reflected several times on the humdrum of life. What to do with it? Well, in 31 years of life, I've come to accept that you just have to live through it. Breathe. Take a shower. Go to work. It will pass, and excitement will come along soon enough. And while you're waiting, take no shame in enjoying the little things. They will get you through.

21. Make your daydream your DREAM. 

I literally daydream about stitching. I zone out at work thinking about whatever book I'm currently reading. And I zip down the freeway composing essays in my head.

Find whatever it is that distracts you from the very real, very tangible life around you, and go after it.

But don't crash your car while you're daydreaming.


22. Know that sometimes a scrap just needs to be thrown away.

When a piece of thread gets too short to comfortably work with, I toss it. I can always go to Michaels and get more.

If a job, or relationship, or a clunky old car is bringing you down, consider the situation really really carefully, and ask yourself if you need to part with it. Bear in mind that several relationships are worth fighting for, but if one is hurting you, then be honest with yourself about it.

23. Don't stray too far from fellow stitches, or you may get lost.

As tempting as it is, I don't veer off to whatever point on my canvas I want to work on at the moment. I start in the center, and work my way outward on the fabric. In making stitches only adjacent to other stitches, I can be more certain the picture I'm creating will come out accurately.

My independence causes me to want my own space sometimes. But I know that I must always return to the people in my life, to keep myself healthy, happy, and sane. None of us can do this thing on our own.

24. Don't lose the goal for sight of the stitches.

No way around it: it takes a lot of tiny stitches to complete a cross stitched image.

It takes a lot of days at the office, a lot of hours in the library, a lot of pirouettes on a polished floor, to reach a final goal.

When I look at the outline for my book and see how much I have left to write, I feel like I'll never reach the end. But when I focus on why I'm writing it, and get lost in the actual composition, I write 100, 500, 1,000 words in one sitting. And it feels like flying.

Eyes. On. The. Prize.

25. If you must become addicted to something (and most of us will), do your best to make it a healthy obsession.

Healthy is a relative term, I know. The fact that we're on point #25 of a list of 31 things that I've learned from cross stitch should leave little doubt in your mind that I maybe have a problem when it comes to employing needle and thread.

Just make sure, however, when selecting your life hobbies, that you're not doing drugs or causing harm to yourself or others, K? Thanks.


26. Appreciate your eyesight while you've still got it.

I know that stitching is going to ruin my eyes. But I'm grateful that I can see so clearly to do something I so dearly love.

Sometimes when I catch myself complaining about things like being out of shape or a little chubby, I remind myself that at least I can walk. I don't want to sound preachy or cliche, but don't take your most basic blessings for granted. They're blessings nonetheless.

27. Only stitch a Grouch; don't be one. 


This one speaks for itself. Just be nice. If you find this genuinely hard to do, you may have some stuff to work through. And I don't say this whatsoever in jest: you can seek professional counsel to work through that stuff. Bear it seriously in mind that treating people badly is not doing this world any favors; its condition is fragile enough.

28. Where you can, find the zen in tedious tasks. 

I recently spent 5 minutes talking very quickly, explaining to Alex how there are different brands of cross stitch kits, and with them come different floss numbering systems, and there are conversion charts online, and I get great joy from looking up the conversions, tagging the spools with their correct numbers, and lining up all my bobbins of floss in order.

"I'm so glad that you felt you could tell me that and not be at all embarrassed by it," he said, sincerely.

"Why would I be embarrassed?," my response.

I don't know about y'all, but I love me some busy work. A lot of people complain about it, but I find the repetition and the unplugging of the creative portions of my brain to be healing, resetting. Try to reframe your attitude toward those tasks that don't require you to analyze. Life will never come up short in the stress it has to offer, so enjoy the mindless breaks it sometimes hands you.

29. Tuck your stitches. 

You might think that cross stitchers complete a length of thread by knotting it off. While we do occasionally make knots for other reasons, at the end of a series of stitches, we actually tuck the thread through other, already-made stitches on the back of the canvas. (This is kind of hard to explain, but moral of the story is that cross stitching requires fewer knots than one might think).

This gentle practice holds your hard stitching work in place, and gets the job done just as well as a knot would.

When gentleness will suffice, seek the less knotted route in life.

30. You will thread a needle thousands of times, and that's awesome.

I thread my needle so often I hardly notice anymore.

It's overwhelming when we consider how many times we will blink, or swallow, or inhale, in our lifetime. Think of how many times, for example, that you've peed to date.

Your bladder has worked pretty hard, eh?

Reflect sometimes on how amazing our bodies are. How we don't have to concentrate on the beating of our heart. How (some of us - not I) are built to complete marathons. Incredible, it is.

31. And finally, know that your many, tiny actions can't be easily undone.

This is a thought I've been keeping in my back pocket for a while.

When you start a thread on a canvas, it's vulnerable. If a knot doesn't hold on the backside of the fabric, the thread can pull through, which is obnoxious because it keeps you from creating an initial stitch. Until you've made several stitches, you have to pull the thread lightly, until you know the end won't budge.

Now picture this: an earthquake rattles a wall and knocks a framed cross stitch piece to the floor. The glass splinters, but the image is intact.

Why? Because a giant, terrifying earthquake can't pull out all those tiny stitches you've so devotedly made. The earthquake is powerful, yes, but not equipped to undo such particular detail.

Sure, some things are going to knock us down. God gives and takes away, and it's not up to us which dreams we get to keep, no matter our death grip on them. (Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, speaks to this with incredible humility in his fantastic memoir, Me, Myself, and Bob).

But I don't want any of you to feel like your day in, day out steps toward your dreams are of no consequence. I do believe that God is in the big and the small of our lives. In the final product, and in the daily breaths we take to get there.

Keep on keepin' on. You'll reach that final, beautiful image. Stitch by stitch.

Much love,
The Birthday Girl

Monday, May 16, 2016

My mental health journey/story -- an updated version

I was asked this weekend to speak at a mental health awareness event at my church. My awesome, wonderful church. I was humbled, honored, and thrilled for this opportunity. We had about 30 people show up, and it made my heart sing to see so many people ready to be champions for mental health. [Also, whoever made the spicy meatballs and the pumpkin pie-ish dessert, THANK YOU. Yum.] If you feel so inclined to read it, the speech I gave at the event is below. Be well, and much love to you all.

My mind has always been an overly active one.

In many ways, I have found the time spent in my headspace to be some of the most joyful, life-giving moments of my life. The hours I’ve spent thinking, pondering, reading, writing, engaging in conversation – many of these have been greatly enjoyable, and in many instances I count them as gifts from God.

But it has also been my mind that I have struggled with more than any one thing in my 31 years on this earth.

When I was in my early twenties, I would react to this natural dichotomy as “what is your blessing is your curse.” Being an over thinker could be both good and bad – it made me creative and able to achieve, but at times I couldn’t turn my brain off, when I desperately wanted to.

As I got older, the extremes of feeling blessed and feeling cursed became stronger, the opposite poles spread further apart from each other.

My creative mind helped me to write things that helped me and others, but too much time spent introspecting would send me to the darkest corners I’ve ever known. On a good day, I was an artist. On a bad one, I was crippled.

***

I was a happy, hyper, anxious kid. I did very well in school and loved my teachers. I made friends easily. But I would regularly – and sometimes daily – get overwhelmed by my schoolwork. It didn’t matter that I continually got good grades and had all the affection of my elders; one homework assignment too many and my skin would turn hot, my heart would race. Oftentimes, my attentive and loving parents would see this reaction and talk me down, but many times I suffered silently, until my breathing returned to normal and I would power through with the rest of my schoolwork, always bringing home an A or B in the end.

This pattern followed me through college – panic, achieve, repeat.

Meanwhile I spent much of my adolescent years in private, dramatic wallowing. My family moved three times before I graduated from high school, and while on the one hand my extroversion made it “easy” for me to make friends, I often found myself feeling on the outside looking in. Alone in my room, I would listen to sad music, sometimes cry, and dream about being Homecoming Queen instead of feeling self-conscious every time I walked down the hallway at school.

Just to give you one tiny example of how different my life was from that of my peers: having few friends because I was perpetually “the new kid,” I once literally took my brother to a dance with me. I was able to carry this off with some authentic pluck, but I ached for a friend group that would include me during special events like Prom.

The payoff of all this was that, after all my awkward socializing in high school, I was a professional social butterfly at my small, Lutheran college. I will never forget the time one of my classmates called me “popular.” She just rattled it off her tongue casually, as if it were a fact so basic as saying Kermit the Frog is green.

But just as becoming a celebrity doesn’t heal one’s woes, my popularity only carried me so far. I continued to stress about the never-ending list of research papers I had to write, and as I edged toward senior year, my anxiety began to grow beyond the reach of my classwork.

As my worldview expanded, I contemplated more and more this complex life, this earth filled with so many people who think differently from one another. I started to worry about salvation, about heaven and hell. All these people God put here, and what did it all mean? Were we all OK, were we going to be OK down the line, and were we going to be OK eternally?

Sure, these things were discussed in the theology classrooms of my campus, but I secretly kept my questions to myself, feeling myself an out-of-place Debbie Downer, a buzzkill at the party that was College.

***

After graduation, it didn’t take long for my anxiety to blister and explode, and depression was on its heels, like a mangled dog.

In my slow-paced job as a receptionist, my mind was able to wander, leading me to think more and more disturbing, confusing thoughts. Thoughts I didn’t dare share with anyone. Later I would come to find that speaking my thoughts to another person would give me incredible relief, but at the time I feared that verbalizing them would make my feelings more palpable and frightening. Not to mention I thought people would think I was crazy.

I began a graduate program in social work, and promptly began to realize that instead of providing mental health services, I should be the one receiving them. I could hardly eat, nor sleep. I would drive home from class hyperventilating. Thank God I lived at home at the time, because eventually my anxieties and regular crying episodes gained an audience, and my parents and brother encouraged me to go to therapy.

While therapy was a life-changing step, I still had to get over the hurdle in my mind of thinking that I was above it. For years, while I supported others seeking professional counsel, I never thought I would feel so low and helpless that I would need it.

The night before my first session, I crept out of bed and found my dad in the living room, watching TV. I was 22 years old, and I crawled into his lap like a child and wept.

While to this day I don’t love attending therapy sessions, Ann, my first therapist, put me at the best ease she could. She had three sons and a daughter, so she understood my feelings of grappling with gender roles, as I am the only girl in my family. Ann was a Christian, so we would sometimes pray before beginning our hour of talking. She occasionally referenced our shared faith and the Bible, but by and large she just talked to me about regular, non-churchy stuff. I found comfort in someone who could relate to my faith, but who didn’t cover my serious problems with packaged platitudes. While she encouraged my faith practices as a way of coping, she also suggested things like journaling, measured breathing, and taking medication.

After just a couple of weeks on an anti-depressant, I could eat again. I could sleep. While still myself, with all my individual, creative, Bailey thoughts intact, I didn’t find my brain spiraling into scary, dark places, places that made it hard to do simple, fun things like go shopping, bowling or dancing.

It gave me my life back.

Eventually I got to a much better place, and I stopped seeing Ann. It wouldn’t be the last time I would see her, though, or other therapists. Throughout Graduate School Take Two (this time to study journalism) and to present day I still talk to counselors off and on, during seasons when I need them.

Over the years, I felt comfortable enough that my doctor would wean me off of my medication; however I would always find myself needing to go back on it in order to cope with my anxieties and emotions. After being taken off and put back on several times, a new psychiatrist finally decided I should probably up my dose of Celexa, to help abate the depression that seemed to be creeping into my life. “You can even be on it while you’re pregnant,” she said, indicating that medication might be a lifelong tool I would need to use.

The bump up from 5 mg to 20 made all the difference.

Still, I found myself fluctuating between happy and sad a lot. I talked to my psychiatrist about this as candidly as I could. I told her I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going on more medication, but I also said that enough was enough. I was tired of feeling one way in a moment, and then feeling the opposite two hours later. I was game to try a mood stabilizer.

While I have never contemplated suicide to the point of making a plan for how I would carry out my own death, I have had moments wondering if my life might eventually end in such a way. The back and forth of my emotions was exhausting, terrifying, and 100 percent discouraging. It was proven over and over that I was incredibly strong, and that God would continue to provide people who could help drag me out of my sadness, but I sometimes wondered if I would always be able to endure the struggle.

After some trial and error with a mood stabilizing drug that did not work for me, my doctor started me on Abilify, and 2 tiny milligrams of that stuff has proven to be a lifesaver.

In a very short time on my new drug cocktail, I could see the difference. For the first time in almost a decade, I felt as I had in my younger years. Life was no longer a dark monster. I could feel happiness and look forward to more. Moreover, I didn’t feel like I was out of control with hyperness. After several months, I was confident that I could feel happy, even, and calm, and it wouldn’t all be erased the next day.

***

My faith – and my faith community – have helped hold me together throughout my entire life. Worship songs can feel like coming home. Prayer reduces the bubbling water inside me to a calm simmer, and eventually, to stillness. Sermons make me think, remind me that this ancient, mysterious book we read applies to my life now. Sitting in a quiet sanctuary centers me.

But it is the people in my life who have been the greatest witness, the greatest proof to me, that God is love and He wants love in my life.

God has always provided for me. In my lowest moments, I always had someone at the receiving end of my phone call. While they weren’t able to erase my pain, or promise me that everything would be OK, they were there. They gave me advice, encouraged me to go back to therapy when I didn’t want to, got me out of the house, and fed me. In a word, they loved me. Just in being themselves, they made me happy again, helped me laugh and inspired me with the many ways they make the world a better place.

This might sound crass, what I am about to say, but stick with me. It is because of the people in my life who embody God’s love by living out their love, that I am not an advocate for simply praying your troubles away. I wholeheartedly encourage church attendance, prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with other believers.

But I also believe that God made some of us great listeners, full of wisdom, so that they could get degrees in counseling and people like me could talk to them and get some relief.

I believe that God made some of us super smart scientists, who have the patience to study brain chemistry and create medication that can literally save lives, mine to name just one.

I believe that God wants to heal each and every one of us, that His heart breaks for our broken world, and He wants all of us to reach out to Him for the peace that surpasses understanding. I will never understand why, when at my wit’s end, I can speak into the air, “Help. I’m stuck,” and somehow I am then able to keep going.

God’s love is the most mysterious, beautiful thing I will ever encounter.

And as a result of His love, we love.

It is because of God that we are naturally designed to want to hug, to fall in love, to care, to cry when someone is hurting, to smile when a child laughs. We are bent for good, but sadly, life can be really damn hard.

I wish I could make sense of it, but then again, I find peace in just letting go, just quietly reading a psalm and wondering why it makes me cry tears of renewal.

From Psalm 139, You know when I sit and when I rise…You discern my going out and my lying down…You hem me in behind and before.  

God, if that isn’t comforting to know that He cares about our every move, when it seems like we’re all just lost in the shuffle, bumping into each other wondering what the heck we’re doing here and why does it have to hurt sometimes?

***

I wish I could tell you that mental health gets tied up in a nice bow. Heck, I wish I could tell myself that.

Two weeks ago, I found myself at my boyfriend’s apartment, feeling more down than I had in years, and as a result, terrified of what might happen next. Based on my history, all I could think was that the sadness would be here to stay.

Alex was taking a nap, and I crawled into bed with him, resting my head on his chest. He was warm and smelled sleepy. As he roused, he greeted me quietly.

“I feel sad today,” I whispered into the dusky light.

He draped a heavy leg over mine and wrapped his arms around me. I laid there like a burrito, warm tears drizzling down my face onto the comforter.

For years, I longed for a lover to wrap me up just like this, but even as Alex said, “I’ll always be here for you,” I felt flashbacks of what it was like to face my sadness and how alone I felt, like it was my battle and mine alone. The heaviness of my past was too scary to imagine facing again, Alex or no Alex.

***

So. How am I facing my current situation?

One, I have talked to my therapist. I am monitoring my moods to report back to him, so we can explore together whether a medication adjustment might be necessary.

I am talking to friends, family, and Alex, checking in about my moods and my fears.

I am writing, dissecting my thoughts and deciding what might be affecting my feelings – Am I stressed? Am I asking lots of big life questions? Etc.  

And through it all – and if I can leave you with one piece of advice may it be this: I will never remain silent.

Please, I beg of you, speak up.

If you are sad, anxious, panicked, mad, confused, lonely, fearful, tired. Or, for that matter, if you are feeling too happy and out of control.

Say something.

Find someone, somewhere, to tell your troubles to. You can talk to me, if you want. If you are really not shy, like me, start a blog and write out your feelings for an Internet audience. If you are too uncomfortable talking to anyone you know, go see a therapist in a town where no one will ever see you.

Just start somewhere.

This life God gave us is incredibly beautiful. It can be so fun and light we feel we never want to leave it, like those parties we wish didn’t have to end. But because our world is broken, life can bring us to our knees, making it hard to even utter to the heavens above: Why is everything the way that it is?

But I am living (living!) proof that if you reach out to God and to the people He made to love, you will start to understand why He came to earth in human form – to give us peace, assurance that we are loved by Him, and to provide an example of how we can love those around us. How to lift each other up, wipe away tears, listen, make psychotropic drugs in a lab, dance, write, sing, share a meal, pet animals, plant flowers, to laugh. To bow our heads together and again turn to Him.

May you all be well, and God bless you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hungry hippo

It's a two donut kind of day, y'all.

I'm. Ex. Hausted!

It was almost too much effort to put an exclamation point on the end of that sentence.

Do y'all call them exclamation marks?

Or points?

I call them points.

It just seems right.

They're making a POINT!

They're not simply marking something down, like a tally on a clipboard.

This bothers me that they are to be called marks.

A mark you get in school.

A point is how you end a statement with gusto.

I'm hungry. I want popcorn and Thai food and my bed oh wait that's not a food.

But I want it.

Cat in place beside me, fuzzy and sprawled (or tucked). Soft, positive music playing. Cross stitch in hand, to work on until I fall asleep, making the book beside me just a wish.

I'm reading another Marisa de los Santos book. Woman is incredible, I don't know why you, too, aren't reading yet another MDLS book. Get to gettin', y'all.

That makes three "y'alls" in this blog post so far. I'm keeping a tally.

I'm tired.

I believe that's three times I've alluded to that.

I'm repetitive today. Which is why I decided to repeat the eating of my first sprinkle donut with a second.

Over and out...y'all.

Xo

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

10 things that are making today great!

Hola!
 
It's your mental health captain speaking!
 
First, we'll start with today's full disclosure, honesty-about-Bailey's-well-being recap (because honesty, in my (honest) opinion, is the first step toward giving you peace of mind):
 
Bails is exhausted and with a spinning head. She was up in the middle of the night with big life questions and possibilities both exciting and frightening her.
 
But! Here in the daylight*, she is counting her positives!!! I urge you to do the same! It's powerful! Research shows it!
 
*Fluorescent office light
 
1. Max's cat sitter is on board and willing to watch him while I'm on my upcoming vacation.
2. Somehow I am able to swim through alllll the details at work and knock out projects and meetings.
3. I called to cancel my massage and they didn't charge me.
4. I ate salad last night and loved it.
5. Carbonated water curbs my cravings for beer, which will hopefully curb the size of my belly. (I just bought three 12-packs).
6. I got to talk to my brother Patrick, my fellow middle child, while I was grocery shopping last night.
7. My book is 26,149 words long (!!!)
8. For once, I am in the green, according to Mint.com, with this month's budget.
9. I have been asked to speak at a mental health event this weekend, and I am honored and thrilled that my church is putting this on and acknowledging the role of faith and wellness together.
10. I made a special playlist just for today, which includes all the people I will see in concert this year: Rachael, Bonnie**, Brandi, Tegan, Sara, Sam. I heart music soooo much.
 
**She doesn't need a website link to refer you to who she is, because everyone should know who Bonnie is.
 
All right, your turn! What are your positives today?
 
Be well. #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth