I’m Sorry

To the people of my past & present, to the souls I’ve hurt and confused, to the folks that know me as careless, emotional, selfish, and unforgiving: I’m Sorry.

And you’ll probably never know how sorry I am that much of my life has been spent processing unnecessary emotions that have influenced my decisions and behavior. I’ve said so many things that I never meant, made so many decisions that were not reasonable, and acted in ways even I did not understand.

I grew up obsessed with the notion of “following my heart”.

A particular conversation that I look back on was when I mentioned to my dad that I was thinking about breaking up with a boyfriend and he said “If you’re even thinking about it, you probably should.” Sound advice at age 14, when “sticking it out” in a relationship wasn’t necessary (and way to go, dad, because I found the man of my DREAMS). But guys, I woke up ready to cut people out of my life A LOT. I ended a lot of relationships out of nowhere because I would just feel…different. I didn’t know why and my efforts to understand were met with failure.

This happened frequently, in all aspects of my life. Something would feel wrong, misaligned, uncomfortable. Despite the lack of logic, I would turn my life and my situation upside down trying to find contentment again.

My senior year of high school, I finally found “my people”. Amazing friends that loved and embraced my weird personality. We spent every spare moment together, venturing out for fast food after school, joining clubs together just for fun. But somewhere along the line, life felt unbalanced and I became unhinged, ruining these relationships that held a top spot in my heart. I said a lot of hurtful things, missed weddings, and burnt bridges that will probably never be 100% repaired.

Later in life, there were days I called off of work because…well, no reason in particular. I was just so overcome with emotion that I struggled to function.

The same happened at the opposite end of the spectrum. I had days when I would wake up feeling insanely confident. Confident enough to be reckless, to insist I didn’t need anyone but me in life, confident enough to walk away from beautiful friendships and treat strangers like peasants.

I was so inconsistent, especially in my high school years, that I can understand how I pushed a lot of people away.

My heart breaks for those days and I struggle with memories of the people I’ve hurt in every capacity.

Because the truth is, I love each and every one of you. That is ME. I’m a lover, even of people that have hurt me. I care so strongly for everyone I come across and truth is, I’d probably take a bullet for an “enemy” because I see the love and light in everyone. I see your strengths and I pray for your weakness. I’ve never felt capable of offering much to this world, except love, and it hurts to know I have not always offered that side of me to people.

My diagnosis of Bipolar Depression has answered the question that’s been stuck in my head for so long: “Why did I do that?”
I feel like I finally understand that there was always more at play than just my emotions and judgement.

With that said, it’s not an excuse for my behavior in the past, and it is 100% on me for not portraying myself accurately, seeking counseling, or trying to mend broken relationships.

But its given me a small sense of peace. Because truthfully, I’ve always felt like I was a bad person. Like I was a terrible human just desperately trying to be better, still awful at my core, forever running through the list of hurtful things I’ve said and done in the past. Forever destined to ruin friendships, complicate my marriage, struggle in parenthood, all to someday put the world at peace with my death.
(Sorry this is so intense…its just where I ended up!)

Anyways, newsflash: I’m a good person.
I know, I’m just as surprised as you are. And now, I feel like I can accept that and move on, treating my mental illness(gosh I still hate saying that though) and working my butt off in therapy to be a more consistently loving human–more ME.

So look,
I’m really sorry if I have contributed to pain in your life. I’m really sorry if you’ve missed the side of me that loves wholeheartedly, does not judge, and hopes for your success. If you’re reading this, and even if you’re not, I’m rooting for you and I care about you. Whether we are acquaintances, friends, or enemies–you have a place in my heart.

And to the folks who have stuck it out and managed to love me despite the million reasons I’ve given you to leave: don’t worry, your letter is coming.

Start Fresh

I’ve been on guard with myself lately, demanding that the last few years of mental struggles were all a result of whacky hormones and insisting that a diagnosis not be made until my most recent baby was a year old.

So when a psychiatrist diagnosed me with Bipolar Depression, I closed my mind and put up my walls, refusing to accept there could be more going on than Postpartum Depression.

It couldn’t be me. I couldn’t struggle with bipolar. My sense of self is so important to me…and accepting this diagnosis would mean accepting that all those years of “following my heart” were spent navigating with a broken compass.

The psychiatrist recommended medication but supported me when I insisted that we reevaluate in a few months.

But as I sat with the questions he had asked me and the memories of my childhood, I slowly began to realize and accept that he was right. There is no denying that I struggled with emotions as a child, that I behaved differently at times, that I regretted big decisions just days after making them. There is plenty more to it, but those symptoms and memories really stuck out for me.

But accepting this diagnosis meant accepting that I’d been broken for the past 25 years, that my decisions in life were not all mine, but clouded by the influence of mental illness. Accepting the diagnosis means accepting that people may see me differently, treat me differently, and trust me differently. Accepting and sharing the diagnosis means opening myself up to the community of people that believe mental illness isn’t real. And accepting medication means accepting that I cannot do life on my own, I need a little help.

So I refused. I insisted. I’m fine. Nothing is wrong.

Eventually it set in that if I didn’t accept the diagnosis and the medication, that wouldn’t make me a person without mental illness. It would make me a person in denial and forever struggling as a result.

I’ve spent a long 25 years begging myself for some consistency in life, always reaching for something to hold me down, to make me stable, to keep me from feeling so high sometimes and so low other times. I always thought that yearning for contentment would be satisfied by a great husband, by becoming a mom, by achieving my goals.

Now I realize that what I’ve always been reaching for…is me.

Guys…my mental state has been a ROLLER COASTER for my entire life. I don’t even know who “me” is without the constant tugging at my heart to be happy or sad.

As hard as it is to accept that I have Bipolar Depression,–that I AM bipolar–that a stigma is going to engulf me and change my relationships, I am so excited to finally understand my past and to have a chance to move on from that, to start fresh with new clarity.

I decided to pursue medication for the sake of giving my husband and children some consistency. When I mentioned that to my Mommy, she pointed out that I deserve consistency for myself. And she is right! I have been battling this forever and it has been hard!I’m thrilled at the prospect of finally feeling better, finally having answers, and finally finding myself.

And I’m just here to welcome everyone on my journey. Because a lot of people spend their lives plagued by mental illness but are unwilling or afraid to admit it and seek help, so was I. It hasn’t been easy. And I’m sure navigating it is going to be tricky for the rest of my life, but if my journey can touch yours and help you along or help you understand how this feels for someone diagnosed with Bipolar Depression, I’m happy to help.

Oh, and side note: I’m not ashamed of “being crazy”. Screw that. I’ve built an amazing life despite living with Bipolar Depression. I’ve fought hard and I’m really proud of that.

To Be, or Not to Be?

Sounds like a cliche quote, but: when depression creeps in, it can be a thought that looms over every minute of every day. A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder following years of counseling, postpartum depression, and explaining the struggles I have faced. This diagnosis followed a period of time when I fell into a deep depression and began to act on suicidal thoughts. I felt like I had lost all control over myself and I was so sure I wanted to die, convinced that it was the ideal outcome for everyone in my life.

I’ve since recovered and accepted my diagnoses, determined to spend the rest of my life fighting it as necessary.

But as I look back on that day and so many before it, I wonder:

Why is it easier to imagine ending my life than changing it?

Why does it feel so simple to end my life than do something drastic to change it?

Wouldn’t I rather give LIVING a shot? Like a real shot, like an “I could die tomorrow” sort of shot.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if those who face depression could take it as a cue to make big changes, to try that much harder, to cut out the toxic parts of life and embrace what makes them happy?

I’ve read that depression can be used as a sign that something about our actions does not align with our ideals/end goals. And I find that so interesting.

It has led to a lot of self discovery and embracing a few new things in my life that bring me joy. It has prompted me to push myself to get more involved at church and build up the positives in my life while I explore some new interests.

Being a Mom is the greatest joy of my life, but I do feel like there is so much more to my story that I have yet to fulfill. Something is tugging at my heart and begging me to live out some big dreams. The struggle is: I’m not really sure what those ‘dreams’are. I’m ready to do something big-but raising children is the big thing I’ve always yearned for. I’m not saying it’s not enough-but I just know there is another element to my story right now, and as someone who felt like I did not deserve to be here, I’m ready to hand my life over to God’s will and live out his purposes for me.

Some of my greatest blessings have followed my greatest lows-lows that helped me readjust and commit to life all over again.

Depression can kill people, in spirit and literally. But it can also propel us forward. And even though it may not feel like it, there IS a choice.


  • “When we reach our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.”

 

 

If I’m Being Honest

If I’m being honest, my life is about as put together as my toddler’s wooden puzzle: 3/4 pieces missing, probably for good. One piece in-tact, but chewed on, ink fading..I’m pretty sure it got peed on at some point. You get the picture.
BUT does this chaos in my life make me less than? DOes it render me “unusable”? Probably not.

Our Pastor shared a wonderful quote this morning:

“God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.”

And for the first time in a long time, I felt compelled to jot that down. Then a quick internet search led me to a few verses in the Bible:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.   1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV

WHEW. I often feel like the circumstances I’ve faced, my response to them, my uncertainty, and my personality all add up to determine that I am NOT one to serve others. And holding that opinion of myself is what led to the end of my blog, the deleting of all depression related posts, and the focus on my artwork. Aside from feeling ill-equipped to share personal stories in the hopes of inspiring and reaching others, blogging helps put my thoughts into words–but serves no monetary purpose and arguably is not worth the time of a busy Mama.

But maybe I’m not ill-equipped. Maybe, what the depression sufferers, the miscarriage survivors, the new Mamas currenty having their world shaken upside down by kids, is someone who knows those hurts, and navigates them daily. For awhile, I lost sight of the value of my experience, and I deemed myself unworthy to share the TRUTH in spite of social(media) expectations. I decided that despite feeling called, blogging was not worth compromising my dignity by sharing incredibly personal details of my life. I decided it was not worth eventually having to talk to my children about the realities their mother faced when they were young.

A chance encounter with a woman who has been inspiring me for the last ten years has set me straight. She referenced my blog and applauded me…telling me I’m “amazing”. As she said this, I felt disbelief-because this woman has been inspiring me for years. She has risen out of circumstance to raise a beautiful, thoughtful, strong little girl. This woman is conquering demons and hardship left and right. I’ve often scrolled by her posts, reminded of the beauty and strength that is able to rise from ashes.

But I could never be inspired by her story if she didn’t share it. I wouldn’t know that people really do face the hardships she has faced, and I wouldn’t realize the beauty that could come from it.

God has been tugging at my heart to change something up for awhile, and I’m certain my place for this time is to share the personal truths of my journey in this world. 1. Because I’m willing. I really enjoy writing and putting it all into words-it’s super therapeutic. 2. I’ve been able to speak with women during Postpartum Depression because they know that I have experienced it. I’ve been able to reach out, remind them they are loved, and encourage them to seek professional help. All important lifelines in the midst of such darkness. 3. I do not believe that I am the best person for this job. I don’t know that I consider myself “stable” enough to guide anyone else…but that is not my intention. I really believe God can use what I have to say to help others who face similar demons, or even just to offer them a lifeline for when they do. I want to be a light for God, but I cannot do that if I’m hiding from it myself.

If you’re reading this, I encourage you to do the same-embrace what God is calling you to do for His kingdom. God chooses imperfect people to carry out his perfect plan. Stop thinking you’re unworthy-Remember that He sent His Son to die for YOU.

You Can Find My Latest Painting…

…on the cover of Jean Claar Bassett’s latest book!
​I am so thrilled to finally share the big news- Back in August, my sister in law put me in touch with a Pittsburgh author in need of an artist to create her latest book cover for a mystery intended for kids ages 8-12.
Of course, I wanted to be able to do this, but really doubted that I would be capable of producing her vision- especially amidst pregnancy keeping me miserable and out of the art studio.

Nevertheless, I gave it my best attempt, and was virtually introduced to Jean Claar Bassett. Jean and I were complete strangers, but spent the next month in almost constant contact via email. She described the potential scenes she would like on the cover and I opted for one that I felt I could better execute(because it didn’t involve people). I sent her sketches to try to give her an idea of what I was imagining and we tweaked them until I had a clearer vision of her plans for the cover.

Ace and I up late, working on the original plan for the cover, which involved the main character and his best friend riding bikes.

The process was nearing the end when I realized that maybe I actually could create a completely different scene from the one we had been working on to give her the human impressionist-like faces she desired for the cover. So, we started over. I read the description of the scene from the book, got Jean’s input, and sent along more sketches. When it was time to paint, we spent several emails discussing color, and I went to work.

This is one of the initial sketches done for the cover.

The initial painting changed a couple of times based on Jean’s needs for the cover but eventually, we had a finished product and the painting was professionally photographed to be sent out for the cover!

Finished product in my studio waiting to become a book cover!

 The end of the journey was an exciting one for me, knowing I had actually accomplished something I was sure would end with Jean telling me my painting was not what she intended for the cover. I gave it my best and it felt good to know it worked out and it felt great to hand my parents a copy of the book with my name printed inside!

A copy of the finished product!

 I have to admit that at the time, the process was entirely new to me and trying to discuss art with a perfect stranger was challenging as this was the first time I was painting something so specific for someone. However, Jean is one of the nicest women I have ever met and was incredibly patient throughout the entire process. I was fortunate enough to finally meet up with her at her church and hand deliver the painting that we had both spent so much time working on. Jean’s personality and talents are just incredible and even more so than having my painting published in a book, I am thankful to know her. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book without artistry in mind!
If you’d like to read Jean’s latest book, it is available for purchase through Amazon: Click here to purchase Elijah Cross Mysteries by Jean Claar Bassett!

6 Reasons I am Glad My “Life is Over” at 22.

This past May, many of my peers were graduating college, moving onto graduate school, settling into new cities, and searching for jobs. The timing had me very reflective-because at the same time, I was overjoyed with news I was pregnant, celebrating 2 years with my husband, and had just left my job to be a house wife/mom. Early on in my marriage, I was faced with wondering if settling down so young had been the right decision, but looking back on the past two years and looking ahead to the birth of our child, I am confident that starting a life young was meant for me; Here’s why:


I skipped the party stage

  I thought I would have regrets about missing this entirely, but then I remember that I never had to be in an uncomfortable position because I was out doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I had plenty of friends in high school, and even in my 6 weeks of college, that I didn’t need alcohol or wild parties to socialize. I don’t have any embarassing stories, and while I’m not condemning those that do, I’m just glad it wasn’t me. 

I have a really cute dog.

  He is sitting in my lap right now making sure I include him. But seriously, because I am settled down and not going anywhere, I have built my life at this house. I’ve got an art studio, a flock of chickens, a garden, and a super cute dog. All things I wouldn’t trade to go back and marry later in life.

The search is over.

  I consider myself so blessed to have married my best friend so young. My dating history barely extends beyond my middle school “relationships”. I don’t have to worry about meeting people, or decide when it’s finally ok to text someone after a date-Because I can nag my husband any time I want! And come on, maybe I am biased, but hubby is a real catch, and I would hate to have given anyone else a chance to snatch him up. 😊


I still have time to focus on me. 

I doubt I will be saying this once the baby is born, but I haven’t missed out on pursuing my goals because I married young. My husband being a composer, he understands the importance of creativity and pushes me to pursue my artwork. He has never held me back, but if anything, he has given all that he can to make my dreams come true.

My life is pretty “boring”.

  In a good way. Maybe it’s the introvert in me that hates making plans and never knowing what is happening the next day, but life is simple and I enjoy that. I take care of the house, feed my chickens, water my plants, strike up a conversation with the neighbors, bake some cookies, and do it all again the next day-and that is all the excitement I need in life.

I am totally ready to rock mom-life.   cannot imagine waiting any longer. Maybe it was the two years of nannying that did it, but I am so ready to meet my baby and raise him/her. I’m going to be young enough to maybe-sorta keep up with this child and give him/her all of the love that I have. Hubby and I are so thrilled to add a little one to our lives.

I am definitely not arguing that there is a right or wrong way to go about life, that there is anything wrong with partying, or marrying later, or starting a family later. Actually, I think I am probably in the minority as far as my generation goes. But everyone is ready for different things at different times, and I am glad this is the direction God has led me.

Through Her Eyes: Artist Statement

  


  I have always been inspired by the natural beauty and simplicity surrounding the small town of New Wilmington. I was moved to see this imagery hanging on the walls of my own home and, as I set out to do so, I came in touch with a local photographer whose images further inspired me to pursue landscapes. My work strives to represent the complex beauty of nature in an impressionistic manner. This painting style forced me to question, “What specific colors and textures are necessary to turn this blank canvas into a scene from nature?” These paintings allowed me to notice aspects of nature that I would not normally notice, like purple clouds in a stormy sunset, or the multitude of colors on a cow I would normally classify as ‘brown’.
  My love for painting gained momentum when I was introduced to Acrylic paints. With the motivation of a new medium and a very supportive art teacher, I fell in love with a new art style. In an effort to impress my now husband, a composer and musician that I was desperate to appeal to in a creative way, I kept up with my new hobby. His continued support and that of my friends and family has helped me to pursue my favorite means of expression. I love the way that paintings are limitless, knowing that no two are the same and that there are endless possibilities.
The colorful bird paintings that will be on display have become a favorite style of mine. I find motivation for these paintings in my marriage, using the birds’ body language to convey concepts like love, patience, understanding, and peace. The colors in the background are meant to flow and set the tone of the piece.

Perhaps my favorite painting is the impressionist-type image of a mother and child that I painted while pregnant and overcome with joy. I felt so inspired and in a single moment felt something inside me that rushed me to my desk and had me painting until the work was complete. Soon after completing the piece, I experienced a miscarriage. The piece now has a new meaning as a reminder of the love that a mother has for a child, and the connection felt even early on in a pregnancy.

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to view my work and hope that it has inspired each of you to look at the world a little differently; perhaps, seeing a sunset, but noticing the clouds that reflect it’s colors, or the blades of grass that create a contrast to the sky. Thank you, Bottlebrush Gallery for the Arts, for supporting me through all of my artistic endeavors!