matthias replaces judas

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“As you did warn me carpenter, this world has weakened my heart

So easily I disparage, self-seeking the work of my art”

Every person feels the pain of rejection at some point. There are varying degrees of it, but I would say we’ve all been there. It hurts.

For me, it was the college rejection letter. It was the people I thought would be there when I was in the hospital back in 2012. And who still weren’t there when I got out. It was the friends who disassociated and went so far as to untag themselves from every picture with me after my manic episode in 2013. Or who wouldn’t reply to my apology- in my useless attempts to pick up the broken pieces. It was the room of about 20 people, dodging eye-contact and refusing to acknowledge my presence, even though I once knew almost all of them. It was the look of “you’re not wanted here.”

When I thought this weekend about all of the times I’ve felt rejected in my life, it made me angry, disheartened, confused… and then it made me think of something else.

It made me think of those that I have unknowingly or even willingly rejected.

The most important one being my own savior, Jesus Christ.

How many times have I turned my back on Him? How many times have I chosen myself and what I want to do over His ways for me? Too many to count. Every single day in fact.

We are born into selfishness. I go against the popular belief that humans are mostly good. If humans were mostly good, our world would not look the way it does. Sin wants power. It wants corruption and manipulation. It wants us to think that we are better than everyone else. We don’t have to teach children to be selfish. Did someone tell all the toddlers, “when someone holds your toy car, strip it away screeching and shouting ‘Mine!'” No, they just do it.

Selfishness is in our nature. We won’t claim our savior until we realize our sin – and until we find out just how dark our hearts are. I think of the crucifixion- We may not have physically been there, but it is the human condition that placed the nails in His hands.

We may feel often betrayed or rejected. But we are all the betrayers.

“Where do You find the love to offer he who betrays You?
And offer to wash my feet as I offer to disobey You
Your beauty does bereave me, and how my words do fail
So faithfully and dutifully I award You with betrayal.”

But that’s where the greatest news comes into play. That even in our ugliest hours, God loved all of us so much that He gave His son to die the most brutal death on our behalf.

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” In other words, He will never reject you. His love for you is not conditional or performance based. He wants you as you are. He will never be embarrassed of You.

Actually, He is proud of you. He has made promises to You before you even came to be. He loves you without bounds.

⇒”For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39

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In the same way, let’s try to love people because Christ loved us first, even when we were deemed completely unlovable by the world’s standards.

Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

The ability to forgive and the ability to love… these are the things that I will be praying for for myself. Thank you Jesus for Your perfect display of these ideals towards me, even though I am undeserving.

“By me You were abandoned, by me You were betrayed
Yet in Your arms and in Your heart forever I have stayed
Your glory illuminates my life, no darkness will descend
For You’ve loved me forever, and Your love will never end.” -Showbread

XO- Laura

grey street

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She could change everything about her using colors bold and bright
But all the s mix together – to grey.
And it breaks her heart.
It breaks her heart.
To grey.

-Grey Street; Dave Matthews Band

Depression. Arguably the least sexy topic ever of possible conversation. I would think most of us know at least some of the denotative concepts- an abnormal and prolonged period of sadness or feelings of emptiness/hopelessness.

But what does depression really even look like for us? And why is it still taboo in the year 2015?

We all get sad at times, but depression is more than sadness. Depression is a warped and exceptionally convincing mindset. A mindset that tells us lies that we take as truths. That you’re not good enough and you never will be. That you’re unattractive, unintelligent, unlovable, a burden to society. It is a suffocating re-occurence of all of these thoughts, haunting without relent. It convinces you that you’re alone. That you are the only person in the world who isn’t lovin’ life at all times. Then, it becomes your friend. Your identity. Who were you before your depression? You can’t remember. Everything in you is in slow motion; but the world is carrying on in cadency, with all its great ambitions . . . without you. Why are you this way, and what did you do wrong?

Here’s the answers:

1. You have an illness.

2. Nothing.

Because that’s just what depression is- it is an illness (yes, a real, clinical illness) that is waging war in your mind- and its ammunition is lies. It’s difficult to make decisions, you find yourself completely uninterested and detached from what you once loved, and sleep becomes your new escape route. It is debilitating.

You embody the paradox of desperately wanting someone to notice and care and wanting everyone to leave you alone at the same time. Maybe you’ve gained weight, maybe you’ve lost weight. This only further soaks ice water into the grey cloud that hovers over you wherever you go. It’s whispering inadequacies in your ear.

Depression doesn’t discriminate based on anything. Gender, race, socio-economic status…it can be a part of any of us. It is also not a choice. It can be frustrating from those on the outside (I’ve been told) who just want to help and want you to “snap out of it!!” If only it were that simple. Nobody asks for cancer, heart failure, diabetes, or any other physical ailment. In the same way, nobody asks for the imbalances in their brain. If depression were a choice, I guarantee every person with depression would choose for it to do a back handspring into the sunset and never come back.

OKAY SO HERE’S SOME GOOD NEWS NOW: 

Depression, though it can be either acute or chronic, is temporary. It will try to convince you otherwise, that you will be this way forever (and it will do a really great job, too). Unfortunately, it can come back. But, it’s manageable with the right resources and support. Seeing a doctor, medication, therapy, talking to friends, talking to family, simply pushing forward and riding it out.. these are all things that I found helpful when I was battling bouts of depression.

I myself didn’t accept any help for a long time.  Back in 2013 I didn’t tell a soul for 5 months that I was depressed (even though it was painfully obvious to most anyone who encountered me). I didn’t tell anyone simply put because I was ashamed. I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. My depression convinced me that my problems were beyond help anyway, and that this was who I was now. Due to my pride and confusion, I took the much longer route to get well and to being myself again.

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I can’t help but feel that if the conversation about mental illness was more present back then that I could have recovered in a quicker span. All I saw at Clemson were the happy glowing faces I passed each day. The giant friend groups posted up in the dining hall talking about their adventures of the semester. The perfect lives that I wanted. Of course, I know now this not to be true, but as a freshman entering her first semester in the Spring amongst “the second happiest student body in the U.S.” I couldn’t help but feel like I was the only one struggling to get by. In retrospect, statistics and fact show I wasn’t. We can’t assume we know what others are going through – because well, we know nothing.

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If you deal with depression– Can I just tell you from someone that’s been there..and then been there again.. It gets better! Depression affects approx. 14.8 million people in the U.S. in a given year. Therefore, you’re not alone in this. There is hope for you. You have strengths that you may not see. I promise you have them. At one point I genuinely believed that I had nothing to bring to the table. I now know that’s a lie! It’s a lie for you as well. Try to let people in. You are not the burden you think you are and most people want to help. If you have no one to talk to, I am by no means a professional and I would recommend talking to one, but I would love to talk to you as well.

If you know someone who has depressionDo not try to fix them immediately. Offer your support, but don’t be offended if it’s not wanted or at least wanted right away. Don’t revolve all your conversations on how they seem down or constantly ask, “what’s wrong????” Sometimes the best thing to do is to just be there with them. Walk through life alongside them. This is what my friend and roommate Allie at Clemson did for me. She was just there and tried to include me in whatever she could. I didn’t always oblige, and I know it was frustrating for her a lot of the time, but she never ever gave up on me.

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Something I’ve done in the past is write small notes to myself in the happy seasons of my life in the event that a future depression could creep back in. Basically things like, I promise you Laura, things are going to get better. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Sounds weird, but each time it gets easier because you can remember it’s possible to recover.

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You can come out on the other side– loving the same things you once loved. You are far from stuck forever in a black abyss of self-hatred and feelings of inadequacy, even though I know it may be hard to believe in that kind of hope in the moment. You are more important and more loved than you know!

You are not weak. You are fighting- and each morning when you wake up to go through the motions of the most mundane, you can eventually find that life is worth living. That life is a giant beautiful mess and we’re all getting through it. You’re not your depression or any of the lies in your head. And with all my love I am telling you, you are not the only one!

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Some verses I’ve found helpful: 

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” -Psalm 23:4-5

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

“For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” -Psalm 116: 8-9

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He will bring beauty from ashes.

XO- Laura

hey eric, by the way..

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I wanna talk about my guy real fast. Only because he deserves recognition even though he’s going to feel awkward receiving it.

Eric is my best friend and my boyfriend. He’s one of those people that’s super easy to like and he has probably the biggest heart of anyone I know. Eric constantly puts other people before himself. He just wants to make sure you’re happy. If you’re happy, he’s happy. I knew he was a keeper when he took me to see Third Eye Blind (one of my favorite bands) for our first date.

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So he’s a pretty simple guy- but in the best way possible. He loves the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Cleveland Browns, his boat, his truck, God, his family, golf, engineering, his gym, and the hypo-alergenic blanket my parents have in their basement. He’s devoted, smart, hard-working, goofy, sweet, funny, kind, thoughtful, humble, patient, optimistic, generous, compassionate, easy-going, selfless, down to earth, empathetic, intentional…the list goes on.

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Because he’s all these things, I was absolutely terrified for the day I was going to have to tell him, “I’m bipolar. Hope that’s chill.”

From the moment we met I dreaded that interaction. He’s going to reject me. He’s too nice, so he’s going to pretend like it’s all good but then he’s going to strategically back out on account of “you know work is getting really busy these days” or “the Browns off-season talk is really consuming me.”

I knew he liked being with me. We talked about everything else during those months. When the “you know you can tell me anything, right?” question was asked, I would nod my head yeah. But I didn’t want to scare him away.

I started to look up articles online. Titles like “How To Tell Someone You’re Bipolar” or “Being In A Relationship With Someone Who is Bipolar.” Basically what I found was testimonials that just confirmed my fear. That it takes a really special person to be understanding of the condition and you’re probs doomed.

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I finally gathered the courage to tell him. I couldn’t stand it any longer hiding my medicine when he came over and my Brandon Marshall lego man (lol). Keep in mind we had already been dating for a few weeks.  I tried to spit out what I had rehearsed in my head, and teary-eyed it came out shaky and nervous and jumbled.

I remember he just listened and put his hand on my back as I was talking. I’m pretty sure I ended with “and it’s okay if you don’t understand and you don’t want to be with me anymore. I know not everyone can or wants to handle it.” He gave me a puzzled look and laughed a little. He told me that nothing I could tell him would make him not want to be with me and gave me the biggest hug. He said he thought no differently of me and he wanted to learn more about the disorder so he could better take care of me.

I have never felt more relieved. It was the biggest weight off my chest and I was no longer hiding anything from him.

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He is nothing but supportive of me. I couldn’t ask for anything else from him.

Loved ones of someone with a mental disorder: I can’t stress enough to you that your support, encouragement, and love means the world. That can manifest itself in many ways. Reading up and educating yourself on the illness. Being patient. Treating us like a person and not a project. Listening. Recognizing our potential. Simply being there.

This disorder that consumed so much of my thought and everyday life prior seems not as big anymore. I have other things to think about and positive distractions. I haven’t felt very normal in a pretty long time- But he makes me feel wanted, loved, special, beautiful and proud to be me.

I will always be grateful to him for that, and to God for sending him my way. I am the luckiest girl. 

To my favorite person- I love you, Eric!

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tiger by the tail

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This post is going to hopefully better explain what Mania is.

Mania is the exceptional high period that people with bipolar 1 experience.  My primary has even compared it to being on cocaine. So like, imagine being on cocaine for several weeks or months. That should be a sufficient start.

Here are some of the symptoms I personally have found in past manic episodes:

Talking.  

Sounds harmless, right?  When I say talking I mean non. stop. talking. 100 mph talking and I don’t really let anyone else get a word in.  In my manic mindset, I feel like other people are talking too slow. My brain is processing information at lightening speed, so I might think you’re boring. But don’t worry I’m way more annoying that you are boring.

Addendum- talking excessively and with no filter to strangers.

Unusually elevated mood/ Optimism

This is probably the only “upside” of mania and it’s the reason why people with bipolar disorder would choose mania over depression any day. You feel on top of the world …until you reach the decline portion of the roller coaster.

Compulsive thoughts.

There is an ongoing stream of thoughts going on in my mind at all times in mania.  This is why it’s hard for bipolar people in manic episodes to sleep.  Why sleep when you can just THINK all night long?!?!!!  Then, in the morning, somehow you wake up feeling completely refreshed and ready to take on the day.  Granted, you got 3 hours of sleep and you could’ve accomplished so much more in those 3 wasted hours.

Lack of filter.

I’m literally speaking my thoughts as I’m thinking them.

Social cues.

So I think this one is kind of interesting. I can tell when people are irritated with how much I’m talking or how obnoxious I’m being.  I just don’t really care.  I can see you looking at me like “woah please stop talking”… but I can’t! This goes back to my brain being unable to shut off.

Productivity.

I’m sure some of you remember the book I told you I was writing a few years back.  I wrote 31 chapters and quit.  My mind thinks I can take on these ridiculous projects and ultimately I don’t finish any of them.  So if you’re still waiting for my book, I’m sorry, it will probably definitely never get finished.

Charisma.

In the early stages of mania, I find it so much easier to talk to people.  The words I want to say just flow and make sense.  I don’t know what else to say about this one except that in my depressed state I can struggle in conversation.

Decreased hunger.

My weight fluctuates a lot. When I’m in a manic episode, my weight is at its lowest.  It has to do with both medication and the whole fight vs. flight phenomenon having a constant presence in my system.  It’s kind of difficult because this is usually when I’ve received the most praise for my appearance.  I know it’s coming from a good place.

Easily distracted.

The reason why I start to do poorly in classes I would normally do well in.

Angry/ Irrational.

My family and close friends see this side the most.  One time I ran over a mile home from a shopping center when out to lunch with my parents because they wouldn’t let me fly to Chicago the next day.  I think that explains it best.

Denial.

I don’t think anything is wrong with me. I’ve always acted like this guys!

Paranoia

I am constantly feeling like people are talking about or looking at me negatively.

Pictures.

I love pictures. In my normal state I still love pictures.  But in a manic state I love them way more than I think humanly possible. Too much saturation in my editing is also a factor. I’ve taken pictures with people I just met 30 minutes before.

Being gullible.

So in my second episode back in 2013 I decided I was going to become a YouTube sensation…this was really confusing to everyone who had just witnessed me in a depression a few weeks earlier.  Some people actually seemed to like the videos, but a lot of people who knew me well were concerned and embarrassed.

Most people didn’t know what was going on as I didn’t even know I was bipolar back then.  A group of boys told me that this guy had been making fun of my Youtube videos.  Furious, I called the guy and left a hateful voicemail saying he didn’t know me blah blah blah. Well, as it turns out, this kid never said anything about my videos and I was just both angry and gullible.

Doing embarrassing things in general. 

I really don’t get embarrassed anymore. Anything embarrassing that can be done I believe I’ve already done in a manic episode. I’ve almost let all these memories go. Once you’re out of the mania, looking back at your wake is the hardest part.

 

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These episodes all occured when I didn’t know for sure that I was bipolar. I was on different medications throughout, but none of them were right for me. I’ve found a medication since that works and is currently a preventative so I don’t become completely manic again.

I’ve been free of mania since Fall 2014, and I hope to stay that way.  I don’t want to take this episode-less stage for granted. The human mind is crazy. I prefer when mine is slowed to a pace where I can enjoy life and keep my relationships strong.

I really don’t want pity from this post! That’s not the point! The goal is to help create understanding on what bipolar disorder even is, as I’m convinced most people just don’t know because they haven’t been given the chance.

Thanks for reading!

XO- Laura

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breaking bipolar

When will we act on how important we say the brain is? The part of us that determines literally everything we do.

I remember when I was in high school thinking to myself, “that would really suck to be bipolar.. good thing I’m not!!!” And going about my life.

Fast forward 3 years.

Honestly, I’m just tired of people unknowingly lumping me into the loony person category with the movie theater/school shooters of the world.  I don’t want to say “woe is me nobody gets me” because apparently there are 5.5 million people in the U.S. who do (and 88 million with all other kinds of mental disorders).  My story and struggle is far from unique to me.

I was told by a well-intentioned lady that I should never tell anyone that I’m bipolar because they won’t understand.  I took her advice to heart for a while, living ashamed.  That people aren’t supposed to be this way and you will be seen as a lesser human who is unreliable in the workplace, probably won’t get married, and just an all around emotional basket case.  Most times I still feel like I have to prove my normalcy for a certain period of time before I can reveal my disorder.

I thought about it though.. how will anyone understand if no one talks?  So far it seems the “understanding” lies solely in the form of horrifying breaking news headlines.  But what about the success stories?  I’ll admit, when I’m doing well, I don’t want to think about being bipolar constantly.  I often forget until it’s time to take my medication each night.  For a different cause, I know I want to remember.  I want to remember because I want to help.  I want to help because I am forever grateful to those who helped me.

I hate taking my medication—but I’m glad I have it.  There are far too many that can’t afford treatment, don’t have families to support them, or both.  Resources available are scarce at best compared to what they could be.  It can take months to be admitted to a facility for an acute situation or even just to get an appointment with a therapist.

Why is this a back burner issue?

I think we’re just scared.  Maybe apathetic.  It’s uncomfortable.  Even before my diagnosis, nothing made me squirm more than the topic of mental illness.  It’s because I knew subconsciously that they were talking about me.  I didn’t want to be one of those people.  Nope, I’m normal and I don’t struggle.  Ever.  I’ve got it all under control.  Smooth sailing . . . haha lol.

It starts with a conversation and education.  Shedding light in the dark areas that no one wants to touch.

Life is a tapestry, where the tucked away warp threads we go through are necessary to eventually make something beautiful of it.

The struggle comes in full force before the healing.

So, all this to say, if you deal with some sort of psychiatric disorder- You are valuable!  You are loved. You’re not the only one. Your mental illness does not equal who you are. I believe, though pretty slow and frustrating, meaningful change to stigma and resources for you and for us is ahead.

XO- Laura