There are five stages of grief. The last one? Acceptance.

This has been a theme in my life as of late. Starting with a conversation I had with my therapist, bleeding into my yoga practice, and seeping back into my therapy sessions. There have been quite a few things I’ve had to accept–and some that I just am not quite ready to.

One of the things that’s weighing on me right now? My illness.

I have bipolar. I am bipolar. It is not all that I have and it is not all that I am. I have to remind myself of this constantly.

There are days where my diagnosis consumes me. There are days where all I want is to let it finally win. To let it take me and devour me. These are the days when I just want to give up and give in. But I don’t.

I don’t like to acknowledge or accept the fact that I’m probably going to be on mood stabilizers for the rest of my life. Colors get duller when I’m on my meds. My happiness is muted, my sadness subdued. I feel like I lose a little bit of my “creative mojo” (to adapt a phrase recently used by a coworker).

I can function like any other person though. I can sit on crowded trains a little easier (that will never be fun or easy to do for me). I don’t get as irritated by the catty gossiping women that sit around me and I don’t get as annoyed by presumably Swedish tourists congregating all in one place. I can get my coffee at any time of the morning rather than timing it almost to an exact minute, like coffee acquisition is a science, and be absolutely fine.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ve had considerable trouble writing lately. In all honesty, I’ve had trouble doing much of anything lately. I’m still probably considered to be “highly functioning” as all of a sudden, I’m able to get myself to work on time–the bare minimum for neurotypical folks. (Glad that something that is so average, so mundane, is so absolutely mindbogglingly difficult for me. Debilitating anxiety can do that, I suppose.)

Admittedly, I’m off my medication right now. It’s hard to admit that after three years, I’ve finally completely gotten off them. And I don’t want to admit or accept that I need them. I want to rebel against the muted tones and subdued creativity of my medicated, yet stable life yet without them, I teeter and totter toward a treacherous area… One that I never wish to see again.

I’ve written about my bipolar in various forms, in various states of medication. Right now, it’s really difficult. Bipolar makes everything difficult. There are days where I wish that everyone in the entire world could understand what it’s like to have bipolar–to experience the mood swings, at least at their euphoric high level. There are days where I wouldn’t wish this experience on even my worst enemies, for it is just so painful and so goddamn annoying that I wish those enemies a slightly softer fate.

I’ve had difficulties accepting this diagnosis for a little over three years now. I don’t think I will ever fully accept it. It’s difficult, it’s challenging, it’s painful as all hell. But, someday, it will be okay. I will be okay.

Coffee Talk

Editor’s Note: I borrowed this format from my friend Amanda. If you’re looking for more great writing, I highly recommend her and her work.

If we were having coffee, I’d take note of your order and remember it. It’s a little habit I’ve had since I started working my first job. Your coffee order tells me a lot about you, if you can believe that.


If we were having coffee, I might cry a little if you ask me about the wedding. It’s a touchy subject at the moment.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that work was frustrating, but still good. I’m writing more than I had been and it makes me happy. It’s hard to do what I do in the climate we’re in. But I’m holding on. It’s all I can do. I would tell you that I’m working on my first series of the year and another one I have in the works that I’m extremely passionate about.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how I finally got a laser pointer for our boy cat and it’s the smallest thing ever but brings me endless hours of joy watching him chase a little red dot around.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that being apart for my wife even for a few days is difficult. The apartment is too quiet without her and I don’t know what to watch on television when she’s not here. The cats miss her. I miss her more.

If we were having coffee, I’d be honest and tell you that things aren’t as bright as they seem. Things are a little scary sometimes and I don’t like the way they’re headed. I’d been okay for a little while but right now, they’re not great.

If we were having coffee, I’d try to reassure you that I’m taking the right steps to make sure things don’t get too terribly bad. I’m seeing my therapist, I’m doing what I can when I can. It probably wouldn’t work out too well, honestly. You might feel uncomfortable–talking about mental health with certain people can be. And that’s okay. Don’t worry. I’m trying–and that’s all I can do.

If we were having coffee, I’d say thanks for listening. And say “Enough about me now. How are you?”

Back On the Couch

There’s a suite of condos down the street and around the corner from my apartment. A simple, short ten minute walk away. I’ve run past that complex even before I started going there. It looks nice, it’s on top of a hill and overlooks the park I usually run through.

Upon entry through the doors that open the completely different from how you’d expect them to, you step into a bright lobby. A right hand turn down a long hallway brings you to the office that greets you with leather chairs and throwback 80s music as you walk through the door. At the desk is the most helpful receptionist I’ve ever met, who remembers me even after just a few appointments and welcoming bowl of DumDums, like you’d see at the bank. Comforting is a great description.

On Wednesdays, usually in the afternoon, that’s where you’ll find me.

I work from home on Wednesdays to make it easier to get to these appointments, and that’s helping me make sure that they remain constant. It’s one of the only things that I really actually do keep constant these days, while everything else is perpetually fluctuating.

Back on the couch. A supple grey leather couch with yellow filigree throw pillows.

Places I never thought I’d be again? The top of the list includes a therapist’s office. Especially after the last time.

But, I’m back on the couch. I don’t have to lay flat, I don’t have to stare at a generic popcorn plaster ceiling, counting the specks like they’re the problems in my life.

I sit in the same spot every week, close to the door but inside, careful and comforted by the fact I’m not told I have to lay down and stare at a ceiling that makes me uncomfortable. (I’m a creature of habit.) I can sit up, face his desk, and talk like we’re old friends. A welcome change.

Of course, I’ve only had three or four appointments with him, but it already feels like we’ve known each other a long time. He reminds me of a good friend. He laughs at my jokes sometimes and doesn’t get upset when I swear and will sometimes swear as well.

He didn’t recoil when I mentioned I was married to a woman rather than a man. He didn’t shy away when I mentioned I’d previously tried to kill myself. It was like he knew he was in for a ride with me. And it was like he’d actually been adequately prepared. I’ve had therapists who weren’t prepared.

Obviously, therapists are meant to be prepared for and ready for people like me, people with the illnesses I have, but it’s not every day you find one that you gel with. One that feels more like a friend than a doctor my insurance company pays.

Therapy to me is like dating and it’s like we’ve had a few dates that have gone well. I’ve opened up a little more and I’ve processed a little more. I’m looking forward to feeling better again. Of course, I haven’t mentioned everything that needs to be mentioned, but there’s plenty of time for that. It’s a long road.

So, I’ll be back on the couch. For the foreseeable future. And I’m happy again.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words said about Elizabeth Warren last night as Mitch McConnell explained why she could now no longer take part in debate on the Attorney General nomination.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.” Words I have been thinking about a lot today. They’ve seemed to be a theme, I think.

Anxiety tried to get me this morning. Nevertheless, she persisted and actually worked today.

Fear tried to get me in yoga class today. Nevertheless, she persisted and nearly (finally) achieved crow pose.

Shame tried to keep me from going to the therapist. Nevertheless, she persisted and sure enough, made it to the office, through a full session, and a serious weight’s been lifted.

But back to yoga class. Because while those three instances all do prove that perseverance is a theme, the yoga piece is important.

One of the instructors at my studio focuses on one region of the body over the course of the month. January was hips (that was a lot of fun, honestly–I’ve always had pretty tight hip flexors and now they feel much better) and February is full of legs as a whole.

While setting our intention, the instructor asked us to call to mind times where we (class this morning was me, my wife, and one of our friends–it was glorious!) were knocked down and had to stand back up.

There were so many times that were called into my mind. Liz Warren served as an inspiration for me too. She stood up for what she thought was right and while she wasn’t allowed to speak (because misogyny and sexism, of course), she still went and read the letter to over a million people on Facebook Live. She persisted.

And of course, there were quite a few times of my own that came into mind. So many. Recent, not-so-recent… Real dark things. Softer, more “trivial” things.

But regardless of what things seemed like, how bad they were, or whether or not I thought they were the end, somehow, I stood up. And I’ll keep standing up. It’s the only thing I really know how to do anymore. Stand up.

Because, like Liz Warren and so many other strong women I know, nevertheless, I will persist. 

Ease Into Courage

There have been two things I’ve thought about a lot today. They’re kind of related, but interestingly, they came from two different places–in a matter of about an hour.

My mind hasn’t been able to stray too far from either of them and they’re both important.

They intersect at a point I hadn’t realized until I started putting fingers to keys… (Funny how writing–at least for me–always seems to bring things into perspective…)

The first: what would life look like if it were easy for you?

I subscribed to the #AsktheQuestion newsletter from Ms. Laura Jane Williams after a work friend recommended it via Twitter. When I clicked, read the description, and subscribed, I hadn’t thought that I would sit on Sunday mornings, anxiously and excitedly awaiting an email ever at any point in my life. But, now that’s what my Sundays look like.

This morning I was pleasantly surprised as I awoke to find today’s edition, talking about things (read as: life, etc.) being “easy” for people.

In essence, the essay closed with the, seemingly simple, question: What would life look like if it were easy for you?

I thought about it. Tried to digest it. Mulled it over. I tried to go on with my morning, but it stuck there.

I thought about it a lot as my wife drove us to our yoga studio this morning. I thought about it a lot as I waited for my vinyasa class to start.

I thought about it a lot as we strolled around Target and as I stood in the middle of the store holding a bunch of random items as she went to find something.

When my brain wasn’t preoccupied with other things like work or my yoga schedule for the week or trying to get my body to contort itself into lizard or tree pose, it was there, wondering what things would be like if they were actually “easy.”

My life, while when I was younger might have seemed easy to some, isn’t easy now. Sure, it’s not has hard as some others (I will openly admit that I have some white privilege), but it’s not easy–by any stretch of the imagination. I struggle. A lot.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about being the “fat girl” in my yoga class.

If my life were easy, I could wear whatever I wanted and feel happy.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about my marriage being legal tomorrow.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t have to worry about what pronouns I use for my wife, actually using the term “wife” instead of “spouse” or wondering if the one person I decide to come out to today is going to be the one to end up attacking me for being gay.

If my life were easy, I wouldn’t need pharmaceuticals to keep me a functional member of society. I wouldn’t have ended up spending four days in a mental institution. I wouldn’t have wanted to die.

If my life were easy, I would’ve been able to learn to drive like all my classmates, instead of facing crippling anxiety every time I even think about getting behind the wheel of a car. 

If my life were easy… so many things would be different.

But then, the more I think about it, the more I realize having life be easy would take the most important pieces out. The pieces that teach us the most and the pieces that help us grow. The pieces that sometimes seem to bring us to our knees, but the pieces that help us get back up again.

This brings me to the second point of the day. The other thing I’ve been thinking through.

In my yoga class this morning, the instructor (one of my favorites), asked us all a question as we set our intention for our practices today. (Fun fact: My intention for any and all yoga classes is usually a single word–survival–but that’s a post for another day.)

Her question: What does courage look like to you?

For me, courage looks like a lot of different things–especially given the way things are right now.

Right now, courage looks like using the correct pronouns for my wife. Courage looks like being able to openly say that I’m married to a woman. Courage looks like standing up for my faith when so many Christians now are denouncing many of the values that I uphold–or interpreting the Bible in ways that go against the values I have and believe in. Courage means being open about my mental illness. Courage means making that appointment with a new therapist. Courage means waking up and living my life.

I’m not trying to make an extraordinarily bold statement. I’m not trying to say that I’m any better than anyone else just because I was able to get out of bed and live today. But, for me, that’s hard sometimes. There are times where things get ugly and living is the hardest thing there is to do–let alone actually trying to be a functional member of society and actually do things like go to work or go to the grocery store.

Right now, all I can do is remember that courage for me is going to be different than courage for other people. And easing into that thought is all I can do for today.

On Carrie

I’ve been mulling over writing about this, and about her, for a long time. She died the day I married the love of my life, casting a bit of a dark cloud over that day. I haven’t been able to string enough words together in quick succession to make it work. It’s been a little over three weeks, you’d think I would’ve been able to put something together by now.

But no. All my words are messy. They’re all kinds of garbled and jumbled and scrambled and I don’t even know which way is out or up anymore when it comes to this.

And as I sit here, fondly remembering my favorite pieces of Wishful Drinking, I find it even harder to pull them–and myself–together. (As if it could’ve gotten any harder…)

I finished The Princess Diarist while sitting in the bathtub. I finished Wishful Drinking not long after–as I’d taken a sick day to pull myself together. As I read each and every word of those beautiful books, my heart broke a little bit more. I couldn’t quite get the tears to fall. I started Wishful Drinking right after Princess Diarist because I didn’t want to give her up yet. I couldn’t leave her yet. I still can’t leave her yet.

The world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

My world lost a bright light when it lost Carrie.

I lost an inspiration, a hero, a friend.

I’ve written a lot about my own struggles with bipolar disorder. It hasn’t been easy to deal with and there are days I still resent it. There are days I hate it and I hate myself and I curse everything that comes along with it. The days where I can’t make it to work, the days where all I want to do is cry. The bad days. The good days, those I’m grateful for. The manic days, where nothing can phase me, where I’m invincible and I don’t have a care in the world–those I would live for. But they don’t come without a cost. And the cost? It isn’t worth paying.

But, one of the first things I learned when I was first handed that diagnosis by a doctor that was less-than-friendly about it, was that Carrie had it too. Carrie had it and survived it. It didn’t kill her, like it threatened (and tried) to kill me (on more than one occasion).

She spoke about it in a way you could relate to, that could make you laugh, that could make you understand what it was like to be bipolar.

It’s something I try to do but fail miserably at. I’ve heard her explain it, I’ve watched her explain it, I’ve read her words explaining it. (In Wishful Drinking, she refers to her moods as “Roy” and “Pam,” where “Roy” is “Rollicking Roy” and “Pam” actually stands for “pissing and moaning”–something I absolutely understand, especially on the worst of the worst days.)

When I read her descriptions, I can commiserate, I can relate, and I understand. Carrie made that painful diagnosis a little easier for me to deal with. Of course, it’ll never be easy to deal with; it’ll always require some kind of medical assistance–whether mood stabilizers and antidepressants or something else down the road.

The more of her writing I read, the more inspired I feel to not only keep writing in general, but to keep writing about my illness. To keep being open about it, to not let it win on the days where it feels like it might drown me. To let my own versions of “Roy” and “Pam” know who’s boss. (Me, that’s who!)

As I read her words, in Diarist and Drinking, I realized that now, maybe more than ever, we can’t stop or give up. She wouldn’t want us to. She wouldn’t dare.

And as so many things are changing, her words and her strength are two of the very few things we can hold tight.

I miss her dearly. I’m so grateful for the works she gave the world, for her emoji-filled tweets, for her photos of Gary, and for her in general. My world got a lot darker when it lost her.

The Year Ahead

I’ve seen a lot of people sharing their words of the year for 2017 lately. I’ve seen “focus” and “courage” most recently; both of which are great choices. Neither are what I would pick for myself though. I don’t want to steal those words from the people who chose them, nor do I think they quite fit for me. And that’s okay.

It took a long time for me to decide on my goals for the year, and I think, after writing and considering them, I’ve finally come up with something in terms of a theme. But that’s for later.

For now, here are my goals.

Run farther, faster, smarter.

2016 saw me get back into running…again. (For a while, my enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed. I think it’s here to stay this time.)

What I love about running and what continues to bring me back to it is that it really helps clear my mind, it helps my ever-fluctuating weight, and there’s nothing like some quality delayed-onset muscle soreness after a good workout. Not the kind that hurts forever, but the kind that reminds me that I did something good.

I want to run a live 10K this year, the equivalent of a 6.2 mile race, and some 5Ks while I’m at it. I’ve always loved a good 5K run.

I want to run the Navy 5 Miler again, and while I didn’t get into the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, there’s always next year for that.

2016 saw some great PRs for me on the running front–from my fastest (and of course my first) five miler to my fastest single mile ever. Even when I was running nearly every day in high school, I’d never had a mile under 15 minutes. (I’ve always been heavy and slower than molasses in January.)

In fact, just on Sunday, I nearly broke 13 minutes after having to take three weeks off because I caught what felt like the plague. My fastest mile is still at about 13:36, but this year, I hope to maybe break 11 minutes. There are plenty of weeks ahead to do it.

The smarter piece is important too. Take my rest days seriously. Take my nutrition seriously. Count my miles and run my routes intelligently. (Don’t go out too late, wear reflective clothing if I do, stay where it’s well lit. Wear warm clothing when it’s cold. Use my live-tracking. The simple safety things.)

There are plenty of races around me and to run–and even though my New Year’s Day run was not fun (headphone issues and my base had been completely wrecked by my three-week hiatus), there is plenty of time left in the year for good runs, smart runs, far runs.

Write better, longer, more.

Admittedly, I’ve fallen into quite a writing slump. I hadn’t been writing on this blog as much as I liked to and I have plenty of ideas just waiting around to be written. Kind of like puppies waiting to be taken into good homes. (It’s an odd comparison, but it works in my brain.) And even in terms of my work products, it’s hard for me to say that I’ve been completely happy with what I’ve been publishing.

My hope for the next year is to continue to improve my writing. I want to expand my vocabulary (which I started working on in 2016 with the creation and use of my word wall–something I’ll probably write about sometime soon!) and vary my sentence structure. While maintaining my distinctive voice. That’s something that’s more important in the things I write for work, but it’s something I truly value.

When I write, I tend to lean toward short pieces, between three to four hundred words. Which are fine and good. But, there’s much more that could be said about so much. And yet, I find myself just writing to get to the end, not writing to really describe. This year, I want to write more. For work and for fun. On this blog, in my novel(s), in my newsletter. Everywhere. (One of my not-included-in-this-blog goals is to open my first novel up to some beta readers. That may come next quarter. Stay tuned.)

I’ve always loved writing. I will always love writing. And the more I do it, the better I feel.

Be stronger in faith, love, and hope.

I joined my church in April 2016. I fell in love with that church and my faith had been something I questioned for a long time through my younger years. But as an adult I’ve found it so very useful, especially when I’m feeling at my worst.

I am admittedly new to a lot of church things. I’m new to a lot of (read as: pretty much all of) the aspects of organized religion, but there are some things I love. I love the concept of “walking in love”–where we are all encouraged to give what we can to others, to show people the love that Christ has shown us. And I want to do so much more of that this year. My church makes it pretty easy to do all of that and my church as a whole is a great example of it. I could wax poetic about it forever.

I want to go to church more. I don’t go as often as I would like, but when I do go, it’s almost like something magical happens and I automatically feel so much different, so much better after I leave. It’s always a semblance of relief–a burden being removed. I love that feeling and I want to experience it much, much more often.

Be thankful for all good things: the big, the small, the in-between.

My planner for 2017, which I’m completely in love with, has a weird spot at the bottom of each left-hand page, the page designated for scheduling and the to-do list. (Both of these will be incredibly useful features.)

For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s just about an inch tall–not nearly enough room for my large, bubbly handwriting to fit in an inspirational quotation. And too big to just keep blank.

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be good to have a “gratitude space.” A place to write the things I’m thankful for that day. Some days there will be a lot, some days not so much. Sometimes big things, like being thankful for having a job or maybe getting the promotion I’ve been looking into for a couple months now. Sometimes it might only be the little things, like what I wrote down the other day: “clean slates, open roads, and running shoes.”

But the point is to be thankful for all of it. I’ve really been living on borrowed time for over four years now and it’s time to really appreciate it.

I think I’ve finally come up with a theme for the year. 

It’s been hard, just thinking about it. But, I think I’ve got something.

All of these things, all of these goals I have for myself, have to do something with existence. Whether it’s existence in a written space, existence on the road and sporting running shoes, existence in faith, and existence in gratitude. I know, at some point, they all may waiver. There could be an injury, writer’s block, loss of faith, or a rough patch of time. (God forbid all of these.)

One definition of a word that’s come to mind is: “the quality or fact of continuing to exist.” That word? Tenacity. One of the definitions of tenacious (the adjective form): “not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action; determined.”

And I think that just about sums up where I want to be in 2017. Not giving up. Determined. Existent. Tenacious.