Candid as F$&%

Featured

Managing my Bipolar in a Tough Season

img_1290-1

So, I have bipolar.  If you know me, you know this.  If you don’t know me, yes I am clinically insane and I own that as part of who I am.  Because in the times when I have tried to deny it, or to pretend it doesn’t exist, I have experienced some pretty terrible sh**.  And even when I have tried, I’ve gone through hell and back.  And those lows are not something I ever want go to through again.  So, I manage it.

(Here is my disclaimer: just like all humans are unique, all cases of bipolar are different.  I’m not a doctor or counselor, just a patient. Tips and tricks that work for me might not work for you.  Always always always talk to your doctor.)

This season has been a tough one for me.  For one, fall is always a hard time of year for me.  The shorter days, the cold coming, less time outside, all of that can get me down.  And some of my daily joys are no longer here. My sister and her kids moved back to WA.  As much as kids can be little hellians, they can also be a huge source of joy, and laughter, and love, and kids have always been that for me.  And my sister is my best friend, so not being around her on a daily basis… well, it sucks. Plus, my favorite guy is deployed and contact is limited.  And I know what you’re thinking… girl, that would be tough for anyone! And you are right!

But I’m not just anyone.  In my beautiful brain, a little can turn into a lot, fast.  It’s taken me years to learn myself (that’s a constant though, right?), and especially to navigate my bipolar. Through this process, I’ve learned to recognize my warning signs before they turn into triggers.  Before I lose touch with reality. Before I lose my hope, my will to live, and end up in the hospital. Because again, I’m not going backwards. Only forwards.

img_1250

So, mine go a little like this:

1. I worry about things that I can’t control, or things that I definitely don’t need to worry about.  Like politics. I do not need to overthink and panic about the world’s problems because of politics.  Or even how I’m going to afford a house one day. That is far in the future, there is no sense or reason to be stressing and obsessing about it now.

2. I get more tearful.  Now, I am a cryer. And sometimes I just need to cry things out.  But when I start crying more frequently, I have to ask myself, is something wrong?  Am I crying too often?  Am I crying more than I am laughing?  Because if I notice that, I know that I’m not feeling good enough.

3. I just feel down.  I have a harder time feeling joy.  I have a harder time feeling happy.  It feels like joy and laughter and warmth feel further and further away.  And I have to try to reach them.  And that becomes exhausting.  Just to feel good, just to wake up happy, becomes a chore.  Blah!

4. And the big one: my sleep.  It becomes harder for me to fall asleep.  I can’t seem to slow my brain down. Or once I’m asleep, I dream so much that I wake up feeling like my brain never really rested.  Normally I need a lot of sleep. When I’m at my best, I get 8-10 hours on a weeknight, 12-14 on a weekend. Again, that is just who I am.  And when that starts to slip, I know I need to make a course correction.

So what do I do first?  Ask my safety team. A safety team is a small group of people, all who you can trust, who know you well, who can be honest with you and who you can be vulnerable with.  They are the people you save in your phone as ICE (in case of emergency) and that on the tough days, you can always go to. For me, I check in with my family and the people who love me lots to see what they think.  Because they know me well and can give me the encouragement I need to GO TO THE DOCTOR.

So a few weeks back, when I checked in with my sister, she was able to tell me with lots of love, you have seemed down, maybe just go in and ask?  Which means: girl, get your butt into the doctor! I went in 2 days later.

Second, I take my meds.  I will never, ever, ever quit my meds (thanks T-Swift!).  My life is too hard without them. (And life is going to be hard enough by itself, I don’t need to make it any harder).  It took a long time to find a medication combination that works for me. But, because life comes in seasons, sometimes I have to make adjustments.  So I talked to my doctor. I shared what I was feeling; my concerns, and asked what we should do. And we came up with an adjustment together. Ultimately, I was SO thankful, because that feel better was on its way!

Next, I check in on my self care.  Am I eating well? Am I exercising?  Because believe it or not, that matters.  A lot. And the answer for me, a few weeks back, was: not really.  I had let it slip. More sugar, more carbs. Less walking, less exercising, less movement altogether.  Also, how is my fun? Am I making time to do things with friends, or pursue hobbies? Because fun matters.  Laughter matters. In this life, if you don’t say no to stress, it will work its way into your life and take over. I realized I was letting that slip, too.  Not scheduling enough fun time, not scheduling enough friend time, not pausing to chat with my roommates or taking a moment to joke in the hall with my coworkers.  Not cool, Kels. Life should be fun, full of love and laughter. And while not every day, or every moment will be, it’s something we should pursue with vigor.

img_1176

Finally, I check in on my soul.  Yep, faith has been the key that unlocked my freedom.  My relationship to God, and to Jesus, has to come first.  Because while I can’t let all the other pieces slip, and hope that prayer alone saves me (cause it won’t) – I am an eternal being.  And in my prayer and my worship, and pursing my God-given gifts, I find my purpose. And when I have a purpose, I have a reason to live.  I know that the world needs me, people need me, my friends need me, my family needs me, I need me, and most importantly, Jesus needs me.  Right here, right where I am, right exactly as I am.  And even in a tough season, God reminds me of that.  He pulls it all together in the most magical ways. And reminds me, I have BIG purpose here.

So, yep, I’ve been having a tough time.  And sometimes admitting that sucks. I’m a strong and powerful woman, so saying I have weakness is uncomfortable.  But that’s okay, I can handle uncomfortable. I can get accustomed to that place of need. Because in the past, when I haven’t, it’s turned bad.  And to be really honest, sometimes the fear of having another episode brings me to my knees. It’s in those same moments, I am reminded to give my worries to God.  I step out in trust and say, You have gotten me this far, You will get me through anything. I trust YOU with my future. I trust YOU with my health. I trust YOU with my heart.  Jesus and I make a pretty fantastic team that way. Together, we got this…

Are you struggling?  Are you hurting? Are you in a dark season?  I’ll tell you, I’ve truly been there… and it truly is going to be okay.  Check in with yourself, and turn to those who love you most.  Make those gentle adjustments. Choose a little bit more light, a little bit more ease,  a little bit more laughter, and a lot more love. Choose that for you, and then trust that you are going to be okay.  Because in the end, it will all be okay. And if it’s not okay, that’s just because it’s not the end.

img_1126

I write this for you just as much as I write it for me.  Maybe more…

Love,

Kels

#YellowLight Movement

Processed with MOLDIV

Okay my loves, let’s start a movement.  I have high hopes for this one, for two reasons: One, I think it’s timely.  And two, I think the world needs it.  I think I need it and you need it.  So here we go!

The #YellowLight movement: we are in a time of mental health awareness (thank goodness, #amiright?).  I am inspired to know that mental health acceptance is on the rise.  Resources for those of us who struggle with mental health diagnosis are becoming more common.  Our families and friends can get help in supporting us too.  This is all very good news.  But I have noticed, that while there are great emergency services, and great routine services, there doesn’t seem to be enough in the middle.  What do I mean, in the middle?

In the middle: I call it yellow light status.  These are the times that most of us have, where we feel on the edge, unable to cope, struggling and yet still functioning (maybe just barely).  We are not to red light status, in which Crisis Response should be involved or we need to go straight to a hospital.  But we are not okay either.

I have thought a lot about this in-between state, and the yellow light idea came from helping a few friends through this type of period in their lives.  After talking with a few people, it occurred to me that we don’t always need professional intervention, or someone with a degree, to help us in this time.  (Don’t get me wrong, asking for help from professionals is often a good idea, and they should definitely be included when necessary.)  But often times, we just need to talk to someone.  We might need someone to listen while we talk through a problem.  We might need someone to give us advice or new ideas around a situations we are in.  We may just need someone to give us a hug while we cry it out.  This type of support can come from community!

I have been blessed with tremendous community in my life.  Unfortunately, not everyone in the world has the support they need.  In an ever-increasing global community, I totally think we can become #yellowlight friends no matter where we are.

So, what do you do, as a #yellowlight friend?  First, tell people that you are in, and that they can count on you.  Second, when someone tells you they feel a bit like a #yellowlight, reach out to them.  Be there for them in their time of need (this can be so meaningful for them and for you).  Finally, get some resources.  I suggest having the Crisis Intervention and Resource information handy (save it on your phone!) so that in the event you feel in over your head, you can help your friend get some red light resources.  Research and share ways to help people in tough times.  You may even learn some skills for yourself!

And for those of us who feel that we are in need of a #yellowlight friend, what can we do?  I personally have a really hard time asking for help.  And I know many of you do too.  So much so, that at times I let myself hurt or feel alone just because I can’t utter the phrase “I need help.”  That is a tough thing to admit.  In an era of individualism, we celebrate all that we can accomplish on our own.  But we must balance that with leaning on each other.  No one was meant to do it all alone.  And so, if you are feeling the feels and needing help, even if you don’t know what that help would look like, you can post #yellowlight.  Or text a friend #yellowlight.  Or tell someone: I’m having a #yellowlight kind of day.  And those yellow light friends will respond.

We are making leaps and bounds as a community who accepts our limitations and where mental health disparities aren’t looked at with shame.  And so when we find ourselves in that middle zone where things aren’t okay (but not so bad that we should head straight to the hospital), we need each other.  We need to know who those #yellowlight friends are, and we need to have a simple way to reach out.  You can be a #yellowlight friend and you can ask for a #yellowlight friend.  Go spread the word, you yellows!

Processed with MOLDIV

And know that I will be your #yellowlight friend, if you ever need…

Happy vs Content

IMG_0022

Happy vs Content

What do you want most out of life?  Seriously, answer the question.

Two weeks ago I walked in to a gym looking for a kick boxing class.  I was in the wrong gym (I found out later), but the owner, Dave, was there and the first thing he asked me was, “What do you want most out of life?”  I thought it was a rhetorical question but he just stared at me quietly, so I started thinking.  He then said, “Yeah, I know, it is happiness.  That is what we all want, isn’t it?”  I told him no, that wasn’t what I wanted out of my life.  “I want a full experience.  I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I lived fully.”

Dave smiled.  I think it was refreshing for him to hear.  I feel like we hear so many people talk about how they want to be happy.  It is an admirable goal. The Dalai Lama said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”  Happiness is one of the best feelings life has to offer.  And after all, who doesn’t want to feel good?  But, in my humble opinion, there is more to strive for in life than just happiness; strive for fullness.

My mother is one of the people who know me best and she phrased it accurately when she said, “Kelsey, you have always wanted a rich, full experience.  You don’t just go through life, you purposefully experience it all.”  I will not tell you that my life has been easy, because it hasn’t.  And my life hasn’t been impossible, because I’m still here.  I have had both easy and hard times, smiles and tears, ups and downs.  I think we all have.  I notice though, how many people shy away from the hard.  I can’t blame them; being down feels like sh**.  But do you let the possibility of being down keep you from living fully?  Life is a risk; take it!

When I was 20 I moved to Spain for three months to study abroad.  It was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences of my life.  I flew there without knowing where I was going to live, without knowing where my school was or having enrolled prior to going and without knowing a single other person in the city where I was staying, Granada.  Yes, this is the point when you can call me crazy.  But after three months, I can tell you (still to this day) that it was one of the best experiences of my life.  It was hard, no doubt.  I had to make new friends (they ended up being awesome, by the way.  You know who you are!); I traveled alone at times and even felt lonely on occasion.  Looking back though, I think it was the tough stuff that made it as rich of an experience as the good stuff.

We can’t go through life thinking that it will be easy.  It won’t.  But if you live fully, it will be worth it.  To have a great life, you have to struggle at times.  God does give someone an easy road to walk down and then call them to great things.  No, He says: struggle, keep trying, fail, get back up, and then you will be ready to do great things.  And so when I think of happiness, I do strive for it.  But when it’s all said and done, I would rather have contentedness.  I would rather look back over my life and know that when it was hard, I made it; and when it was fun, I enjoyed it; when it was sad, I cried and when it was funny, I laughed.  The full spectrum of a life lived well is not only marked by the good, but also by the hard.  I hope my life includes a lot of happiness, but more than that, I hope I always feel content that I have lived my life fully.

So, what do YOU want most out of life?  Really, I want to know.

Raise the bar. High.

IMG_2963Are you sick of dating? Me too!  I’ve decided to give up, but trust me, I’ll never give in.  Let me tell you what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I had a great phone call catching up with one of my best friends from college, Katie.  Of coarse, during the conversation, we gave each other updates on our love lives.  Both of us are single and actively dating, and yet, we both agreed that it was really hard to date.  I told Katie that I had given up expecting a man in my life.  She told me she had come to the same conclusion.  We both want to get married one day, if we met the right person, but neither of us was sure that was ever going to happen.

Now, to give you some history on the subject, I should tell you about my first memory.  I was two and a half and my parents were getting married.  My mom was trying on her wedding dress in my parents room, and I thought it would be awesome to get under the dress and make it my own white satin fort.  To this day, I remember her vividly: how she looked, how she smiled, and how exciting it was for her to be getting married.  I have always dreamed of being married: the wedding, the love, the family; it all sounds so great to me.  But it hasn’t happened.  And I have asked myself so many times: if it hasn’t happened, will it ever happen?

My friends would tell you I’m a big believer in true love.  I also have a tremendous capacity for love.  For most of my adult life, I have been waiting for that perfect individual to come in to my life and make me the happiest girl on the planet.  Well, I’ve quit waiting.

I recently read a book called We Were Feminists Once.  In it, author Andi Zeisler makes reference to Hollywood movies.  She makes the excellent point that so many (and I mean SO many) of the movies that hit the theaters are stories of women who are lacking until they meet a man.  Maybe they are miserable, or haven’t come into their true personalities, or are just overall lacking in life; and then all of the sudden Prince Charming rushes into the scene and saves the day.  The woman is now the happiest girl on the planet and voila! they live happily ever after.

This common theme got me thinking: have I been waiting for a man to start my story?  It seems so ingrained in our culture and ingrained in our minds that our stories must indeed revolve around our relationships.  Sure, we can talk about our careers and adventures, but I notice that it always seems to circle back to, you guessed it: Prince Charming.  Once I realized this, I made a bold decision: I am giving up on finding Mr. Perfect.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Kelsey, you cannot give up on your dreams.  Kelsey, he is out there and you just have to be patient.  Let me tell you something: I’ll never give up on my dreams.  I will always be open to meeting a man who is going to help make my life awesome.  But in all honesty, it is up to God.  And only He knows how and when and if that person will be a part of my life.  But thinking of it that way is actually the best feeling I have had about dating in a long time.  I trust whole heartedly that He has an amazing future planned for me.  I don’t have to worry about making it all happen; God will take care of that.

I have taken a real look at my life now.  What do I want to accomplish?  What are my ambitions and dreams?  How do I want to spend my time?  You guessed it again: doing awesome stuff!  I need not hold back.  I am hiking and traveling, learning guitar and making new friends.  My life is awesome.  And if someone is going to come in to my life and be a big part of it, they have to be the kind of person who is going to make it even more awesome!

I sincerely refuse to give in.  I refuse to believe that I have to lower my standards or settle for less than what my needs really are in order to be in a relationship.  I refuse to conform to what other people think is best to ‘complete me’.  I refuse to be okay with mediocre dates, guys who are only nice some of the time, or anything short of amazing.  I refuse to accept that my life story has to start when I meet a guy.  Nope!  My story started long ago, and Mr. Perfect or not, my story will go on.

So, I say raise the bar.  Raise the bar high!  Live your life to the fullest and wait for no one to complete you.  Be complete by just being the wonderful and unique person that you are.  I’ve adopted this attitude and it has helped me to be excited with my life and satisfied with who I am.  Because I’m awesome.  And my life is awesome.  And I’ll accept nothing short of awesome.

You can’t escape LOVE

IMG_3085You can’t escape LOVE

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about love.  I’m not talking the boyfriend/ girlfriend, can’t get enough of you, kiss you in the rain love.  I’m talking about unconditional love.  The love you feel when you hug a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.  The love you feel when you see a mom kiss her child’s scraped up knee.  The love you feel when you tell someone something hard, and their first response is to hug you and say its all okay.  The love I have been pondering is the deep, the true, the soul to soul love of the world, and of people.

In the wake of the Orlando attack, I have had so many questions.  But the one I keep coming back to is: how can someone lack so much love in their life and in their heart that they would be capable of that?  Simultaneous to this event is my own search for meaning.  I have been trying to find a passion in my life.  Someone recently told me, “Don’t worry about finding your passion.  Make your passion helping people, and in that you will find your true purpose”.  This opened up the idea in my mind that my true passion is to love people.

The path continues to thinking about infinite love, the love of God.  We live in a world of judgement.  And this judgment goes against the true love that God means for us to have.  As a Christian, I am often bombarded with ideas of what other Christians think it means to love and accept someone.  “The bible says you shouldn’t be gay” they say.  Or “the bible says you won’t be saved if you aren’t a believer”.  And while I am in no place in my faith to refute the bible, I am ready to say that if you look closely, I think the most important message is one of love.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:37 (thank you to my uncle for introducing me to it), and it says: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.  For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our lord.”  Powerful!  Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from His love?  Let that one set in.

It is easy to get caught up in not loving others.  I am guilty of it all the time.  Gossiping about someone, or wishing something bad on someone I don’t like, or judging someone.  We are bombarded with information on what separates us: our color, our beliefs, our location, our values, our language, our status, our gender and so much more.  And when we feel separation, it becomes easy to judge.  But I don’t want to live that way.  I want to put all that down and say, no, this is my fellow human and at the end of the day, I love them.

We see hate in the world, and harshness.  But to be honest, I see so much more love.  If God does not let anything in all creation stop him from loving each and every one of us, why should we let anything stop us from loving each other?  I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care what you believe.  I don’t care the worst thing you’ve done.  Just get to God.  Get to the love of God.  Get to the love of each other.  Just feel the love that the world has for you, and for everyone.  And then go spread that love.

 

Spoons

spoons pic

When I was a kid, my family would go camping every Memorial Day weekend.  When it was cold and rainy, and we had nothing else to do, we would play a card game called Spoons.  The basic idea is that the players pass around the deck of cards continuously until someone has four of a kind.  They grab a spoon, and the rest of the players grab at spoons.  The last player without a spoon is out.  Those camping trips are some of my fondest memories growing up.

Recently I was admitted to the hospital in a mental health ward.  My thoughts were spiraling deeper and deeper in to depression that I gave up on myself and my life.  I felt like I was in the darkest place of my life and had no way out.  But my family never gave up on me.  I had visitors daily and love pouring in.  Slowly but surely, I began improving, finding my way out of the darkness.  I prayed constantly: prayed for help, prayed to feel hope, prayed to feel love.

On one of my last days in the ward, a few of the patients and I decided to play Spoons.  Now you can imagine how hilarious it would be to play this game in a mental ward:  people of varying ages, with a wide range of mental states going on.  It wasn’t easy to explain, it wasn’t easy to get participation, but when the spoons went flying I started to smile.  Cards were dropping, players were grabbing at the spoons at the wrong times and it was a mess.  But it was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

I was reminded that life is messy, dark times are gong to happen, nothing and no one is perfect.  If everything were perfect, imagine how boring life would be!  Do you struggle?  Are you in a dark time?  Does it feel like you’ll never find your way out?  Keep looking for the light.  It will come.

The Thigh Gap

thigh gap

How two inches of fat can ruin your life; and not in the way you think!

I hate to admit it, but the question of the thigh gap is trending.  Honestly, it’s a little bit pathetic to me.  But for the purpose of putting the issue to rest, I will tell you how two inches of fat can ruin your life, or save it.

If you aren’t already familiar with the thigh gap, it is basically the area closest to a women’s pelvis between the legs, and particularly on those of you who are petite, it is a gap between each leg, even when your knees are touching.  Let’s be honest: most of us are not that petite, nor that skinny.

Disclaimer: I am not bashing on women who are petite and skinny.  People are blessed with bodies of all shapes and sizes, and girls who have a thigh gap need no shame.  But what about those of us who don’t have the thigh gap?  Can two inches of fat, or lack of it, really make us happy?

The answer: it cannot, and most definitely should not.  If two inches of fat on each inner thigh can make you miserable, you have bigger problems than you think my friend.  As you can see from my own photos, I don’t have a thigh gap, and I don’t have a problem with that fact.

I will admit, sometimes a thigh gap would be nice.  On a hot summer day, during one of my typical three mile runs, I wish for nothing more than a little relief from my sweaty thighs rubbing against one another.  (The mental image of that may be somewhat disturbing, especially if you saw how sweaty I can get.)  Somehow, Lulu Lemon and Nike haven’t been able to make a pair of shorts that keep from riding up on my legs (or at least I haven’t found them yet).  But every other moment of my life, I don’t mind those two inches.

Is there a benefit to fat on the inner thigh?  Google that question and all you will find on page one is ways to get rid of it.  Video after video, article after article, of advice, tricks and techniques to rid our bodies of this burden.  But is it really a burden?  I think not.  Yes, work out.  Yes, focus your exercise on areas you’d like improved.  But under no circumstance should you bash yourself, or others, for not having “perfect” thighs.

My ten-month old niece has some rolls around her thighs.  Everyone that meets her comments on how adorable they are.  Really, they are what will give her the ability to walk, and eventually run.  But on me, are they adorable and sexy?  I’d say without hesitations, yes.  And other people are starting to think so too!  Women’s magazine highlights an article on anti-thigh gap jeans.  Singer Demi Lovato shares her selfie with Ryan Seacrest, where she says, “My body doesn’t naturally have that”.  Props to her, cause mine doesn’t either.

Obsessing over two inches of fat on your thighs is unhealthy.  Society may tell us that we should be unhappy with our bodies, which can be an infectious message in our minds.  I have struggled with body image my whole life.  But over time, I have realized that I can’t listen to what people think my body should look like.  We all have areas of our bodies that aren’t perfect.  The real goal is to be happy with your body, accept it, imperfections and all.  After all, healthy girls are hot girls.  And happy girls are hot girls.  Let’s be hot.