Leigh’s Interview Feature

Here is another interview feature, this time Leigh’s. Please read this one and all the others as I repost all of the interview series. I hope to write a book about the many experiences one day if I can get my Patreon account off the ground. Please enjoy!

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Leigh’s Interview Feature

Imagine.

Being entirely out of focus on the world around you. It is impossible to get out bed even for a moment. The struggle to be yourself is real, and the little things in your life seem to be unlikely to get done. What do you do? What can you do when depression gets the best part of your day?

Leigh turns to her faith, “If I take a second to breathe and focus on God, I find that I’m able to concentrate better.”

This is the story of a brave soul dealing with the unimaginable depths of her diagnosis. Each of our mental illness stories is unique to each human being in the mental health community. Here is one story—a good one of Leigh S from Norfolk, VA.

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If we could walk a day in Leigh’s shoes, we would find someone stuck between two worlds. Leigh fights with her Christian faith and being Bipolar. It can be hard to reconcile being Bipolar with what the Christian faith teaches us. The dark places that depression can take your thoughts can be hard to deal with and still keep the faith. It is never easy, but Leigh continues to walk the path that helps her with the daily struggles of being Bipolar.

Leigh explains how it is for her struggle with being a Christian and Bipolar. “Being Bipolar and a Christian can be a struggle on a lot of days. Because while I know God is with me, sometimes I struggle with actually believing it.”

When asked about how her mental illness affects her own life daily her answer was a familiar one. “I have days where I don’t know how to cope, so I retreat to my room and bury myself in a book to escape reality for a little while.”

Leigh’s story begins in the year 2000. In her senior year of high school, Leigh received a diagnosis of severe depression. Leigh started to hate life as she sunk deeper into her depression. It was tough going most days with her moods all over the map. It seemed as if the diagnosis did little to help Leigh.

“My grades suffered. The only thing I can think of that could have lead to the depression was that I had MAJOR panic attacks. It would start in the middle of the night. I was laying there when my heart started racing. My hands seized up, and my mom couldn’t pry them open.”

It only got worse over the years. When Leigh mood would swing from depression to mania, her would spiral. It wasn’t long before Leigh was charging up her credit cards racking up mountains of debt.

“I was happy, sad, frustrated, angry, excited, and depressed all rolled into one package.”

It’s interesting that a sufferer will find the first diagnosis of severe depression. It is often the wrong diagnosis. It wasn’t until eight years later that Leigh got the right diagnosis that fit her symptoms. Bipolar Two disorder. But for Leigh, she believes that her diagnosis was wrong.

“Once I learned about the Bipolar disorder, everything fell into place. All my up and down moods, rollercoaster of emotions. I had it all along.”

What causes this to happen? Leigh believes that it could be that her doctors didn’t know what they were looking for. But she believes that she has been Bipolar since her teenage years. At one point, we have all had a time where our diagnosis and the reality of what is going on in our lives doesn’t seem to match. It was the same story for Leigh.

Every single day Leigh does her best to make it to the next in the way that works best for her. She does it with a lot of prayers and daily meditation. There is, of course, the thing we all have in common, the medication that does its best to balance our lives.

Leigh believes in her faith. One thing Leigh wants people to understand from this feature is simple. That it is possible for someone to be Christian and have a mental illness.

“It is possible to experience being Christian and suffer from a mental illness. It’s a struggle, but it is possible.”

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This is a unique and vital way of looking at mental illness. It is one we haven’t explored here on “The Bipolar Writer.” Leigh says it’s a struggle, but it’s a significant struggle for her. It goes the same for the many other Christians dealing with a mental illness. It was great for Leigh to bring her trust in her faith here, where she would be vulnerable.

While perusing Leigh’s blog, I was impressed with how committed Leigh is to her faith. Leigh wants only to help those who are struggling with their mental illness and their faith in God. It is inspiring to see Leigh’s article about “Plan of Salvation.” In this blog post, she offers to help for those who want to talk about becoming a Christian. Leigh uses scripture to back up her faith throughout the blog articles that she writes.

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A close relationship with Jesus Christ is one way that in Leigh’s life makes it worth living. She believes in a healthy church family that cares and nurtures her spiritual journey. It is essential for those of us with a mental illness to find these little comforts in life.

Meeting others only reinforces Leigh’s faith in God while dealing with an illness. “I’ve been able to meet others who share my mental illness. It has helped me realize that there are others who know what I am going through.”

Many of us in the mental illness community suffer beyond our daily struggles. It is no different for Leigh. In her life, she has to deal with the struggles that are not mental. The illness is a chronic disorder. Fibromyalgia is the widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. It is downright frustrating for Leigh to deal with both daily, but she always finds a way through her faith.

Leigh’s story of faith and diagnosis is not one this author has heard a lot of in his own journey. It was refreshing to see a journey like the one we see with Leigh. To have faith even in the deepest depths of depression is something worth writing about.

It takes a special person to be willing to talk about her journey with her faith and being Bipolar. When I begin to write these individual feature articles, I don’t know what I will find. But so far, I have seen amazing stories the stories of how strong the human spirit is. It’s stronger than I ever would’ve thought imaginable. It is an honor to write down Leigh’s story here on The Bipolar Writer.

If you would like to see more of Leigh you can find her on her WordPress blog:

www.byfaithnotbysight.wordpress.com
Interviewee: Leigh S.

Author: J.E. Skye

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Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoJoshua Fuller

unsplash-logoBrandon Mathis

unsplash-logoOlivia Snow

unsplash-logoAaron Burden

Interview Features – The Series

Since December of 2017, I have been conducting interviews with people of all ages and sex that deal with having a mental illness in their life. It is my way to give back and also show that mental illness has so many different unique faces that are all amazing in their own right.

I interview each person with the intent of writing a feature article about their journey. For me, it has been nothing short of one of the best ideas I have had for The Bipolar Writer blog. This page is dedicated to those interview features that have made their way to this blog.

This page will be updated as the features become live on The Bipolar Writer blog.

As of January 9th, 2019, I will be bringing interview features back to The Bipolar Writer blog. If you’re interested, please email me @ jamesedgarskye22@gmail.com for more information.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Morgan’s Interview Feature

Tony’s Interview Feature

Leigh’s Interview Feature

Tabbi’s Interview Feature

Crown Liberty’s Feature

White Fox’s Interview Feature

Courtney’s Interview Feature

Tony Robert’s Interview

Katie’s Feature Article

Interview Feature Story: Liz S.

Brittany Elise’s Feature Interview

Victoria’s Interview Feature

Eve’s Interview Feature

Interview Feature Story: Liz S.

Interview Feature – Julia Cirignano

Interview Feature – Laura Sanscartier

Taylor’s Interview Feature

Joy Daehn Interview Feature

Author: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoTrent Erwin

What Topics Should I Write in August?

I always have a good working list of topics I want to discuss on The Bipolar Writer blog. Often some of my blog posts are random thoughts that pop into my head about my journey with mental journey. I thought why not try something new in the middle of August?

Are there any topics you want to see me discuss on The Bipolar Writer?

If so let me know. I am happy to write about anything related to mental illness. I have two really good things— experience and opinions about mental health topics. Drop me comment or two about what you want to see here on The Bipolar Writer blog. It can be anything I can connect with my experiences with a mental illness or even off the wall topics you want my opinion on.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoGlenn Carstens-Peters

Brittany Elise’s Feature Interview

Are we defined by our mental illness? Brittany Elise from Fort Worth, Texas believes that your illness shouldn’t define you.

“There are resources and support networks for you. Don’t think your diagnosis is the end of the world. It’s the start of getting the help you need, even if you don’t think you need it. Find what works for you. Mental illness is not a-one-size-fits-all.”

The Beginning and her Incredible Journey

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Some battles with a mental illness can go on silently for years, it was that way in Brittany Elise’s life. In 2014 while in high school, Brittany was first diagnosed with depression. It was the silent battles that came to a culmination that became her diagnosis. In the summer of 2012, Brittany began to have thoughts of wanting to self-harm. In the winter of that year, she opened up to her parents.

“I would spend an hour or more at the time in the shower. Sitting there with the water running. Thinking about how much I wished the pain would go away,” she explains.

It was always hard for Brittany and her family, and it was common for negative thoughts to go through her mind. She would think “things would get better if.” What if her parents didn’t have pay for things for her. What if they only had to buy food for themselves? It can be an overwhelming to feel a burden in the lives of others.

“I don’t remember what made me decide to tell my family, but I remember my mom’s reaction,” she recalls. Her dad killed himself by slitting his wrists right before her birthday.”

Brittany’s mother held her until she stopped crying. It was in this moment that her mother convinced her to go see the intervention counselor at her high school. The counselor was effective for Brittany, but the following year the counselor was gone. Brittany felt good, but it was only temporary.

“Gradually it started to come back. I would be angry all the time and lash out at the world. I was making myself sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school. I would stay home every day. It got to a point where I was close to not graduating,” she explains about her past.

It got so bad for Brittany that her parent’s frustration grew, and they made her see the family doctor. It here that Brittany got first got her diagnosis of depression and at it was the first time being on medication.

The medication helped at times for Brittany but it was still hard. The depression was still in full force by the time Brittany graduated high school. Stress was a major factor in her senior year and it would be the little things that got to her. Her doctor limited her medication to six months, and for a while after high school she normal.

“I finished the six months right before starting my first semester of college. I was on top of the world. I had a boyfriend who I thought loved me. My family was in a slightly better place and I was starting a new chapter in my life.”

As most things do in life, Brittany’s world began to crumble. It didn’t help that a few weeks coming off her medication Brittany’s grandfather got sick. In hospice care, her grandfather was close to coming home. But after a few days of visiting they never saw him awake. After a week Brittany’s grandfather passed.

“His funeral was the day before my first class and the next day, my relationship ended,” she recalls. “After my grandpa’s death, I started to get panic attacks. I’ve been to funerals before, but my grandpa’s hit me hard. The panic attacks were constant, but I hid them like my depression, and since they came at night, it was easy.”

Brittany transferred to a four-year college and things started to look up in her life. The thing is with life, things like panic attacks never come at the right time. The worse panic attack in her life came for Brittany when she went to a concert with her church group.

“I’ve never been claustrophobic, but I had my first major panic attack there,” she recalls. “This was the first panic attack that made my dad see that I did have something wrong.”

What we often learn in a mental illness journey is that some people will doubt your illness. They believe it made up or not real. This comes from never experiencing the feelings associated with a mental illness. It was the same in Brittany’s life. She explains how her father, up until she had her major panic attack, he didn’t believe that she had a mental illness. When they picked Brittany up from the concert they could see it in her eyes.

When Brittany got back to school she was able to see an on-campus counselor. When she got back on medicine she could see changes. But, in the first semester of her junior year in college, her depression and anxiety got worse. It became impossible to get out bed to go to class.

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“After talking to my professors and my new counselor, I made the decision to take time for myself, and withdraw from classes. Moving back home helped some, but I haven’t been able to find a counselor to see.”

That is where we find Brittany in her journey with depression. It can be a hard place to be in when you have no outlet when you have no counselor to see. Dealing with her mental illness daily can be difficult for Brittany because of her anger. Her targets are often her boyfriend and family members.

“I’m moody all the time. I can go from “the best day ever,” Brittany explains. “To “I hate life and what’s my purpose” in a few seconds.

How Brittany Deals With her Mental Illness

In Brittany’s life, it can be difficult to be herself in a single day with her depression. It helps to have people in her life that understand the bad days. Brittany’s boyfriend suffers from depression and PTSD, so he understands.

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“If I’m having a panic attack, he held me until I quit crying. We adopted a dog, who we are training to be his service dog,” she explains. “He calms me instantly. He knows when our mental illnesses are affecting us before we do.”

Brittany explains that her dog is one of the best decisions she ever made in her life. It also helps Brittany get through a day by reading and writing. It helps her to spend as much time in nature as she can. It is her happy place. It can be a struggle like any mental illness for Brittany. But at the same time, she wouldn’t be who she is without her mental illness. Brittany has found her place within her diagnosis. A great feeling.

“It makes me a stronger person,” she explains. “Even if I am weak some days. I’ve learned how to live with it, and make it more of a back burner than having it affect me severely.”

How do we get back to the real person that we are inside? It takes the little things in your life that make it worth living. The Bipolar Writer often struggles with this. It is in the little things that Brittany finds her strength. With her boyfriend, friends, and family she has her biggest support system.

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“Even when they don’t completely understand my illness.”

Brittany has big dreams that she won’t let depression conquer. Instead, it will be Brittany doing the conquering. It is in her dreams that she also draws strength to move on. Brittany would like to finish her creative writing degree and become a fiction book editor. If possible she wants to write her own novel somewhere in the future.

“My pets. The dog my boyfriend and I adopted and the dog I grew up with is the biggest cuddle bugs. They are always doing something to make me laugh,” Brittany explains about the little things. “Especially when the big one farts all the time.”

Of course, there is Brittany’s tattoo.

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It is a constant reminder to fight and to keep the faith that she will make it through her depression.

Depression can be crippling in our lives. It has been in my own life. I can find strength in Brittany’s story because it is one that I know well. I hope in reading Brittany’s story, that you feel the same. A connection with another member of the mental illness community. It was a great pleasure to share the journey of Brittany Elise. I have a feeling one day we will see the amazing person that she will become in-spite of depression.

If you would like to read more from Brittany visit her blog.

www.brittanyeliseweb.wordpress.com

Interviewee: Brittany Elise

Author: James Edgar Skye

Photo Credits: Most of the photos are from Brittany’s personal collection

Other Credits:

unsplash-logoJamie Street

unsplash-logoAsdrubal luna

The Night Run

The Night Run

A short story based on actual events by Chelsea Walker

She sits down on the brown couch in the living room to tie her shoes and then she’ll be ready to go.

“Are you running, Mom?” Stella asks.

“Yep.”  Chelsea finishes her runner’s knot and stands to adjust the lighted vest she’s wearing tonight.  It is already dark out.  “Ryan, I’m ready to go!”

“Ok,” he replies emerging from the hallway with young August in his arms.  “Have fun.”  He kisses her and smiles his goodbye before turning back to the children.  “Chloe, get in the shower, please.”

Chelsea makes her way to the front door, taking a moment to look at her phone.  She starts her walk-to-run app and puts her headphones in.  “Begin with a 5 minute warm up walk.”  The woman’s voice instructs.

Chelsea opens the door and heads out into the cool air of this Arizona winter evening.  Taking a moment to enjoy the wide open space of the outdoors, she takes a cleansing breath.  It soon becomes a sigh of relief.  A few minutes alone.

She crosses the lawn and makes a left at the sidewalk, stopping briefly to start her music.  Heaven by One Republic begins.  She quickens her pace to a brisk walk and focuses on the sound in her headphones, reveling in this time to recharge.

Chelsea and Ryan and their 4 children live in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.  Right now it’s winter, the best time to be in this part of the world.  People from all over north America travel here to get away from the snow that’s prevalent further north.  It’s the ideal winter residence.  The summer’s are tough, but winter in Arizona is a paradise.

Chelsea walks the tree lined streets, cool air filling her lungs as her heart rate starts to accelerate just slightly.  She’s almost to the main road.  Heaven ends.  She’s feeling like something different would suit her mood tonight.

Feeling like Owl City, she starts Embers and starts jogging as the voice in her headphones says “Start running.”

She relishes in the feel of her feet pounding the pavement and her lungs breathing in and out.  It’s felt so good to be running again, just like she always used to.  She hopes this time she can stick to it.

It’s been a long couple years.  Debilitating depression made life a living nightmare for so long, but things have gotten better.  She notes with gratitude that this run is a symbol of how far she has come.  The lyrics to her soundtrack match her mood and thoughts.

There were days, when each hour, was a war I fought to survive

There were nights, full of nightmares and I dreaded closing my eyes

Tears fill her eyes as the lyrics bring the pain of those dark times back to the forefront of her mind.  Cool air rushes against her, a balm on her warming skin.  She remembers the constant pain and distress, the hopelessness…

There were skies that burst open with a downpour to drown me alive

But the world took a spark like a match in the dark and the fire brought me to life

So I’m fanning the flames to climb so high ’cause there’s no other way we can stay alive

Chelsea’s pain turns to a fierce determination.  She focuses on how much better things are now, even though they are still difficult.  But I’ve come this far.  I can keep going.  She increases her pace, causing her lungs and legs to burn.  She ignores the discomfort and pushes through.

And you’ll find, there’ll be mornings when the ashes and embers are cold

But you’ll fight with a passion and you’ll never stop cause you know

Yeah you know it gets better and your story is yet to be told

Every push, every shove, every war, every love

Yeah the coals are beginning to glow

The lyrics are just what she needs right now, to give her courage to go back home.  Home to a family she loves more than anything, but feels more than inadequate to care for most days.  Tears forms in her eyes once more, but she wills them away, and instead focuses on the passing palo verde trees and lantana shrubs that dot the edges of the sidewalk.

She turns down her music for a moment and offers a prayer in her mind.  She prays in gratitude for how far she has come.  She expresses thanks that she can run tonight and thanks for her family.  She tearfully pours out her heart, sharing with her Father in Heaven how difficult this is and how much she needs His help.  Closing her prayer, she feels a sense of calm and peace, knowing that she is not alone in this struggle.

Chelsea reaches the intersection and turns back around the way she came.  “Slow and down and walk,” come the instructions from her running app.  She gratefully slows her pace, breathing heavily.

25 minutes passes quickly, but it’s just the recharge she needed tonight.  When she hears the final voice command to cool down with a 5 minute walk, her heart and mood feel lighter.  She feels refreshed emotionally and ready return to the responsibilities at home.

As Chelsea approaches the house, she can see all the lights on and hear the sounds of children talking loudly.  Ryan is still getting them all to bed, she notes.  She almost loses her courage, as the weight of her responsibilities settles back onto her shoulders.

Taking a deep breath, and sending another prayer heavenward, she crosses the front lawn and takes the sidewalk up to the door.  She opens it and is greeted by the happy voices of her children.

“Mommy!”

Chelsea smiles and hugs them in return.

Owl city lyrics provided by Google.com
Songwriters: Adam R. Young / Nate Campany / Emily Meredith Wright
Embers lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

You Are Enough

What I share below is something I never have verbalized to anyone in full.  I share here, in a judgment-free zone, to start a conversation about something I feel is very important to my lasting happiness.  This is not easy for me, but I am hoping it will helps someone else.

Here goes…

Today I share a lifelong and ongoing journey with understanding my self-worth. When I talk about self-worth, I’m referring to my intrinsic value as a human being.

Our ideas about who we are and what makes us valuable are often shaped at a very young age. How our parents/guardians spoke to us, what they praised us for, how we were reprimanded, if we sustained abuse of any kind–all of that will begin to shape our ideas about our self-worth.

In my family, appearances were very important. To have the biggest, nicest house and the nice vehicles was valued. Not only this, but our individual physical appearance was valuable. We were all nice looking children. This was praised and resulted in admiration from my parents and grandparents. Others who didn’t live up to their standard of beauty or attractiveness were put down and demeaned in conversations at home. Hearing this kind of dialogue over and over formed the idea within me that I was valuable because of how I looked, and that somehow made me a little better than other people who weren’t physically attractive. I am ashamed to admit this but it was true.

Another valued attribute in my family was being able to make things happen and get things done. Accomplishing tasks, getting good grades, working hard–these were all applauded. Again, I heard talk of others who had depression or similar invisible health problems and they were disparaged and put-down in my hearing. I learned that I needed to be accomplished to be valued and that others who couldn’t do this were “lazy” and less valuable as people.

In admitting this, I am not trying to throw my family under the bus. I love my parents and acknowledge that they taught me a lot of valuable skills, truths and work ethic that have helped me throughout my life. Please, don’t judge them too harshly. I think that the generation preceding them (my grandparents), really drummed these ideas into them in a similar way to how they were drummed into me.

So, as a young person, in good health, I felt I had a lot of value because I was attractive and thin and smart and could get things done. (It’s horrible to admit, but true).

However, when my physical and mental health began to decline due to hypothyroidism and depression, I struggled with feeling that I had any value at all. I had gained a lot of weight and I was no longer the fun, vivacious person I used to be. I had difficulty getting things done. My house was often a mess. In general, to say I was struggling is an understatement. I felt that I had lost all of my value. On top of my health problems, I was ashamed to be me. What a tragedy!

As years went by, I finally got the help I needed for my health problems, got gung-ho about getting healthy and lost a lot of weight. I could accomplish many things again, I felt fun, and cheerful again. I felt I had worth again. I no longer subscribed to the false idea that I was better than others but my value as a human being still depended on these outward circumstances, just like they always did. So, while all the circumstances were “perfect” I felt that I was worth something.

Then, things came crashing down again when I got pregnant with my last child. Weight gain most significant and severe depression hit again. A big part of my misery during this time was feeling, again that I had lost my value. I didn’t want to be miserable about this so, I finally got to the point where I asked myself, “What if I’m stuck in this state for the rest of my life?” I realized that I would want to be happy and love myself, even in my current state. I needed to learn how to so that I could try my best to be satisfied in the present. So began a journey of self-love that I continue to this day.

As I thought about self worth I had to ask myself some hard questions. What makes an individual valuable?

Here’s what I learned: my value and yours is constant. It does not change with fluctuating circumstances. This means that I am worth the same no matter my pants size, no matter my hair color, what my face looks like or how I talk.  How I appear and how I show up in the world, has no bearing and no effect on the value of who I am inside.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the following story.  A man, young and healthy is diagnosed with diabetes. Time goes on, and he struggles maintaining his health.  Complications of his disease result in an amputation of one of his limbs.  Would we say that he is now worth less now because his body has changed?  Of course not.  But we do this to ourselves all the time.

I also learned, importantly, we are all worth the same. Period. Regardless of race, religion, creed, gender, or sexual preference we all have the same value.  This goes without saying and yet many people in the world think that their group has more value than another.  This is a deplorable but a prevalent problem in the world today.

And here’s something else: nothing we can do, or not do, will change our worth. It remains constant even when we mess up, even if we excel–there’s nothing we can do to change our worth, either by attempting to increase it or diminish it.  How do I know this is true?  Consider my own story.  Was I really worth less because I couldn’t accomplish much due to my depression?  Of course not!  Yet, I allowed myself to believe it.  In the same way, I am not worth more if I can do more!  If it is true for me then it is true for others as well.  The child that makes a mistake is not worth less because he messed up.  And that same child is not worth more if he seemingly does everything right.

Logically, this is easy to acknowledge and yet it’s hard to live it. I’ll tell you why I say this. Consider your own life. Consider what you feel makes you valuable. Make a mental list. Did you list anything about your appearance, culture or accomplishments? If so, consider the following. How would you feel about your worth if circumstances beyond your control took all of that away from you? Imagine you’ve been physically disfigured and your ability to continue with your accomplishments is taken away. Do you still feel valuable? It’s hard, isn’t it? We often think we are worth something for all the wrong reasons. Then when we feel we mess up or don’t live up to our ideals, or circumstances change our abilities, our self worth plummets in our minds, and so does our happiness.

Where does our worth come from then?  If you subscribe to a belief in God, then know that you are of worth because you are His child–end of story.  You can’t add to that, or diminish it.  If you feel you exist by chance or evolution, I add that it you are of worth because you are you.  You are unique–the one and only you in the history of the world.  Your DNA is original.  Your presence in the world is irreplaceable.  Your effect, incalculable–just by being present and alive.  Like Clarence says in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life:” “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

So, in my long-winded way, I am saying that you are worth more than you know or understand, and so am I.  I believe in self improvement and learning and changing and growing with life’s circumstances–but I also believe in the intrinsic worth we all have as humans.  And that doesn’t change, no matter what.

Many circumstances can effect our level of happiness in life, and getting on or off the changing rollercoaster of our own self worth will certainly have an effect.  What has been your experience with self-worth?  How has it affected your level of happiness?

Think on this. And tell me how you feel about it.  Am I off base here?

Do you ever struggle with your self worth?

I still do from time to time.  I’m still internalizing all this, but I know it’s true and I know that, because of this, I am always enough.

And so are you.

“The Chasm”, a poem about my journey through deep depression

The Chasm

A Poem, by Chelsea Walker

It came, took me underground

Away from light, far from home.

I fought growing fog, yet

The world became darkest black.

 

Where are lights of endless stars?

Where, the guiding landscape?

What is this jagged rock which

Hangs, and juts at every turn?

 

From depths of deepest pain

My fists pound unrelenting stone,

But finding soon a tunnel there,

I will myself to walk alone.

 

I trip, stumble along the treacherous path

That seems to lead nowhere.

Who can see, with mortal eyes,

Beyond darkest black?

 

Desperation, fear–I cry into the night,

Who will help me out of here?

Comes soft reply,

“Hold My Hand, precious friend.”

 

Light illuminates my Otherworldly Guide.

Hand in His, I ask, “But, how?

How long until we reach the end?”

I sob with sadness fresh.

 

Discouraged, disheartened

I do everything I can, to reach toward

The guide, which is My Savior’s Hand.

Only He is sure of how to exit this great void.

 

I force my eyes, focus, on the One Light,

Illuminating footsteps ahead.

Stumbling from time to time, I will not fall,

If still I clutch the Master’s Hand.

 

While walking, stumbling, I realize

Progress bit by bit.

Hope within me grows,

Though continuous the blackened pit.

 

Days, weeks, months, years

Steadily go on.

Joyously I realize a slow,

Steady change from darkest night to grayest dawn.

 

With faint illuminating light

Of sun’s bright, distant rays,

I learn that I can speed my pace

I now begin to run!

 

Emerging from the chasm

To glory of noon day

Within my heart burst gratitude, joy

Akin to none I’ve known.

 

Oh beautiful, great mountain!

Oh waving grass so glorious!  Bird song most welcome!

Gentle breeze, a welcome kiss

On upturned face and outstretched arms.

 

Turning to my Guide, I see Him smile with gentle warmth.

My heart with peace o’erflows.

“My dearest friend,” He softly says,

“You’ve made it to the end.”

Finding Hope, Sharing Hope

With my most recent medication adjustment, and focus on self care, I find myself feeling better and better each day.  I am so grateful that things were easily remedied this time.  I know, from experience, that things can be much worse.

This causes me to reflect back on where I’ve been and see how far I have come.  In doing so, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Where once, not too many years ago,  I was encompassed by darkness and despair, I feel now the light of hope, happiness and optimism.  I plan to enjoy this as much as possible.  But, as I think back to that time of darkness, I can still remember the agonizing pain, and the overwhelming hopelessness.  I can recall how afraid I was of what was happening and how heavy the burden felt.  I remember wondering day after day if I would ever really get better–if I would ever really be me again.  I felt so removed from the me I knew and understood that it felt as if my brain was hijacked or taken over by something else.  It was akin to a novice fisherman, accustomed to being in calm waters, suddenly transported into a great storm in the middle of the ocean–without bearings and with no proper equipment to survive.  I truly cannot believe how far I have come, since then.  I learned to navigate that storm.  And eventually, the waters calmed and I could see the light coming over the horizon again.  I know storms will come and go–I can be sure of that.  But for now, I am doing ok.

I can remember being in the midst of all of this, and being crushed time and time again by waves of hopelessness.  I searched, I prayed; I tried the best I could to get through minute by minute.  My only comfort and hope, in these dark times, came from God.  He was with me and helped me through every step. I know, that it is because of Him, that I have come this far.

I learned through this process that hope is the antidote to despair. So I did everything I could to strengthen my hope.  First and foremost, because Jesus Christ is the source of all hope, I did everything in my power to move closer to Him.  I studied His words, I prayed and I tried to keep Him in my thoughts.  As I did so, I was strengthened in my hope and was eventually able to overcome my despair.

I know that this idea does not appeal to everyone and so I also include some other strategies for growing the hope within.

As I tried to move through this pain, I also clung to stories of hope–accounts of people overcoming great hardships.  These I soaked up like water into parched, desert ground.  I clung to the hope that I could overcome as they had.  It didn’t really matter what the hardship in the story was–be it overcoming cancer, learning to live with a physical disability, enduring chronic pain or the loss of a loved one–I felt if they could overcome, then somehow, I could too.  I felt (and still do) that these great storms come to each of us in different ways, but come they do.  I feel this is something we all have in common: suffering and hardship, and the sometimes desperate hope that we will be able to overcome.

So, because I have felt of agony and despair, like many of you–I feel a desire to help others.  My utmost hope is that I can support, even in some small way, another person trying to get through life’s storms–whatever those may be.  I’m still in the boat and the storms still come.  I am no expert fisherman, but I am a fisherman who wants to help others in rough seas.  To those in the midst of deep depression, despair, bipolar disorder or whatever it may be, hang on to hope.  There are so many who have been where you are and have pulled through to brighter times.

So, find hope.  Find it anywhere you can.  See it in the stories of how others have overcome.  See it in the stubborn flower that thrives in cracked concrete.  Find it in the source of all hope: Jesus Christ, Himself.  As you find it, cling to it.  Make growing your hope the quest of each day.  And as you begin to overcome, minute by minute, day by day, share that hope with others.

Leigh’s Interview Feature

Imagine.

Being entirely out of focus on the world around you. It is impossible to get out bed even for a moment. The struggle to be yourself is real, and the little things in your life seem to be unlikely to get done. What do you do? What can you do when depression gets the best part of your day?

Leigh turns to her faith, “If I take a second to breathe and focus on God, I find that I’m able to concentrate better.”

This is the story of a brave soul dealing with the unimaginable depths of her diagnosis. Each of our mental illness stories is unique to each human being in the mental health community. Here is one story—a good one of Leigh S from Norfolk, VA.

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If we could walk a day in Leigh’s shoes, we would find someone stuck between two worlds. Leigh fights with her Christian faith and being Bipolar. It can be hard to reconcile being Bipolar with what the Christian faith teaches us. The dark places that depression can take your thoughts can be hard to deal with and still keep the faith. It is never easy, but Leigh continues to walk the path that helps her with the daily struggles of being Bipolar.

Leigh explains how it is for her struggle with being a Christian and Bipolar. “Being Bipolar and a Christian can be a struggle on a lot of days. Because while I know God is with me, sometimes I struggle with actually believing it.”

When asked about how her mental illness affects her own life daily her answer was a familiar one. “I have days where I don’t know how to cope, so I retreat to my room and bury myself in a book to escape reality for a little while.”

Leigh’s story begins in the year 2000. In her senior year of high school, Leigh received a diagnosis of severe depression. Leigh started to hate life as she sunk deeper into her depression. It was tough going most days with her moods all over the map. It seemed as if the diagnosis did little to help Leigh.

“My grades suffered. The only thing I can think of that could have lead to the depression was that I had MAJOR panic attacks. It would start in the middle of the night. I was laying there when my heart started racing. My hands seized up, and my mom couldn’t pry them open.”

It only got worse over the years. When Leigh mood would swing from depression to mania, her would spiral. It wasn’t long before Leigh was charging up her credit cards racking up mountains of debt.

“I was happy, sad, frustrated, angry, excited, and depressed all rolled into one package.”

It’s interesting that a sufferer will find the first diagnosis of severe depression. It is often the wrong diagnosis. It wasn’t until eight years later that Leigh got the right diagnosis that fit her symptoms. Bipolar Two disorder. But for Leigh, she believes that her diagnosis was wrong.

“Once I learned about the Bipolar disorder, everything fell into place. All my up and down moods, rollercoaster of emotions. I had it all along.”

What causes this to happen? Leigh believes that it could be that her doctors didn’t know what they were looking for. But she believes that she has been Bipolar since her teenage years. At one point, we have all had a time where our diagnosis and the reality of what is going on in our lives doesn’t seem to match. It was the same story for Leigh.

Every single day Leigh does her best to make it to the next in the way that works best for her. She does it with a lot of prayers and daily meditation. There is, of course, the thing we all have in common, the medication that does its best to balance our lives.

Leigh believes in her faith. One thing Leigh wants people to understand from this feature is simple. That it is possible for someone to be Christian and have a mental illness.

“It is possible to experience being Christian and suffer from a mental illness. It’s a struggle, but it is possible.”

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This is a unique and vital way of looking at mental illness. It is one we haven’t explored here on “The Bipolar Writer.” Leigh says it’s a struggle, but it’s a significant struggle for her. It goes the same for the many other Christians dealing with a mental illness. It was great for Leigh to bring her trust in her faith here, where she would be vulnerable.

While perusing Leigh’s blog, I was impressed with how committed Leigh is to her faith. Leigh wants only to help those who are struggling with their mental illness and their faith in God. It is inspiring to see Leigh’s article about “Plan of Salvation.” In this blog post, she offers to help for those who want to talk about becoming a Christian. Leigh uses scripture to back up her faith throughout the blog articles that she writes.

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A close relationship with Jesus Christ is one way that in Leigh’s life makes it worth living. She believes in a healthy church family that cares and nurtures her spiritual journey. It is essential for those of us with a mental illness to find these little comforts in life.

Meeting others only reinforces Leigh’s faith in God while dealing with an illness. “I’ve been able to meet others who share my mental illness. It has helped me realize that there are others who know what I am going through.”

Many of us in the mental illness community suffer beyond our daily struggles. It is no different for Leigh. In her life, she has to deal with the struggles that are not mental. The illness is a chronic disorder. Fibromyalgia is the widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. It is downright frustrating for Leigh to deal with both daily, but she always finds a way through her faith.

Leigh’s story of faith and diagnosis is not one this author has heard a lot of in his own journey. It was refreshing to see a journey like the one we see with Leigh. To have faith even in the deepest depths of depression is something worth writing about.

It takes a special person to be willing to talk about her journey with her faith and being Bipolar. When I begin to write these individual feature articles, I don’t know what I will find. But so far, I have seen amazing stories the stories of how strong the human spirit is. It’s stronger than I ever would’ve thought imaginable. It is an honor to write down Leigh’s story here on The Bipolar Writer.

If you would like to see more of Leigh you can find her on her WordPress blog:

www.byfaithnotbysight.wordpress.com
Interviewee: Leigh S.

Author: J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoJoshua Fuller

unsplash-logoBrandon Mathis

unsplash-logoOlivia Snow

unsplash-logoAaron Burden

Weekly Wrap-up 1/14 – 1/20

I have been super busy and it has meant not writing my weekly wrap-up the last two weeks. So I am bringing you the wrap-up of what has been a very busy week. This is the place to catch up on all my writings. So, here we go with the weekly wrap-up January 14-20, 2018.

J.E Skye’s Weekly Wrap Up

What I Learned Today

In this blog post, I talk about something new that I realized in my social anxiety life. What is interesting is that sometimes through reflection you can find some amazing parts of yourself. This is a great read because it shows another aspect of my growing list of things about my social anxiety.

Music That Changes my Mood – Part Eight

This post is one of the ongoing blog posts about sharing my playlist of music that changes my mood. Its been a great series and introduce more songs. This one is just a great list of music.

Katie’s Feature Article

What can I say about Katie’s interview feature Living with Faith in a Bipolar Life? I enjoyed being able to share Katie’s story on my blog and at the same time get to know an amazing writer. If you haven’t read Katie’s feature, then I think you should. It’s a great piece.

Music That Changes my Mood – Part Nine

This is the first edition in the series, Music That Changes my Mood that featured Christian Gospel. It was great to share this, and this blog post came from a request from a follower. It was nice to share this side of me because of my faith, which I probably don’t write about enough. To share these pieces of music from amazing artists was amazing. The last part of this post talks about a time when I lost my faith and the song that really helped me get there.

Day 16: My Motivation of 2018 – So Far

This blog post is just me sharing my motivations so far in 2018 as I move closer each day to my most important goals of the new year. My motivation is high and I wanted to share it with my fellow bloggers in the mental illness community.

Mental Health Stigmas

This blog post challenges my fellow bloggers to talk about the stigma that surrounds mental health. This is one of my main goals when starting The Bipolar Writer, to end the stigma. There are so many great writers out there that are being a voice but we need the entire community writing to really end the stigma. I challenge each of my blogger followers to start or continue to write on this issue.

Music That Changes My Mood – Part Ten

This is part two of the Christian Gospel version of Music That Changes my Mood.

My Mental Illness Journal

This was something I have been wanting to post on my blog. My thoughts in journal form from the past when my depression was at it highest. These pieces are real and raw. I don’t edit these pieces and rather I chose to leave them as written. They are my thoughts I never thought I would share, but that is the goal of my blog and memoir.

Goals in Mental Health Recovery

In this blog post, I share some questions that I had to answer when working on my own mental health recovery. These questions are not all that will help you along your journey, but they are a good start. If you are looking for a way to set goals for your mental halth recovery in 2018, please read this post.

Looking for Contributors for The Bipolar Writer Blog

This was a simple blog that speaks for itself. If you want to be a contributor to the content of The Bipolar Writer blog, just read this email.

That’s my weekly wrap-up. I will make sure to remember to write these each week so that I have all that I did that week in one place.

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J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logophoto-nic.co.uk nic

unsplash-logoSid Ramirez