Tag Archives: bipolar

Mental Health and the Art of Listening

Looking back in my last post, I realize that I was a bit frazzled as I wrote it.

Clue #1: I didn’t capitalize appropriately. Some bloggers do this for style. I was frazzled and writing fast.

Clue #2: I wrote the post in 23 minutes. Yes – from “begin new post” to “publish post” with “categories” and “tags” in between, only 23 minutes flew by.

Clue #3: The post has had more shares than any other post I have ever written. Frazzled, raw, and unfiltered posts grab readers right in the gut, and readers share.

I have had several private messages through Twitter, Favebook, and my email….I’m so glad it is helping people to articulate, share, listen and hope.

I am also really sad that the post even had to exist.

I currently have a lot on my plate. Those who know me recognize that I say this a lot. The truth is: this might be the fullest it has been in a while, and it’s going to stay full for a bit. As a good friend/mentor says, “It is what is it.” The days will be long and interesting, and we will get through them.

What I do not want to do in the midst of this busy time, though, is to lose my ability to listen.

I should pause here and share that I struggle to be a good listener. I tend to want to interrupt, fill in your sentence, and move on to the action part – usually where I fix whatever it is that happens to be wrong. However, I have been trying hard recently (and for the past decade!) to look others in the eyes, be still, and give space for them to explore in my presence rather than dragging them past themselves into a solution.

I have sat on the receiving end of this practice with friends, my counselor, and mentors.  This is where the work of improving mental health happens.  Mental health doesn’t improve because you give me your recipe for success.

Mental health improves because I feel heard.

How can we be better listeners?

  1. Close our mouths as others talk. I’m not kidding. We need to get over ourselves and not want to get in a word.
  2. Breathe deeply and look the other in the eyes. The calm that we present will help the other remain calm even when the situation may be very chaotic.
  3. Do not fear silence – in fact, count to five or ten before talking when the other person pauses.
  4. Ask open-ended questions that allow others to understand their issues better. An example of this happened over the weekend when a friend asked me to clarify a statement I had made. It was not for her understanding that she asked the question but rather as a way for me to see over the issue and past what bothered me.
  5. Just listen. Just be there. If the other person sheds a few (or many) tears, honor those tears, let them flow, and don’t comfort to the point of stifling what might be a very healing or cathartic moment.

I share quite openly that I struggle with mental health issues.  the last post I wrote published less than three hours before I spoke to our church’s youth group about mental health and their faith.

I told them that there are adults willing to help them.  I told them that because I have experienced that truth over and over again in my life.

I have run into the person here or there who has not known how to listen. If it is a tough time for me, that is really, really hard.  When I’m in a more gracious place, I realize that I’m not always so good at this art of listening either.

It’s a new day. It’s a new week.  Football season is over, and the Broncos won (yay!).

As we start off this week, let’s try to practice listening more and taking less. We may learn more about others than we ever dreamed was possible.



Filed under health, Relationships, Thoughts

Mirror, Mirror – Embracing Our Fractured Selves

I love words.

I love how they look inside our heads, on pages of books, and even on screens of various devices.

I love how words form clouds of vibrations in the air as people give voice to them.  I love the sounds that they make, how they can put weight on our hearts, and how they can lift our spirits.  I love the tones that we give them, and I love the emphasis that we place on just the right words in sentences we say.

I love how words take my jumbled thoughts from my mind and make sense when I type them into a blog post.

What I love most about words is the pictures that they create in our minds with their various meanings and how those pictures become clearer as we understand the meanings of the words in different ways that impact our lives in meaningful ways.

The word embrace has become that for me recently.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, embrace has many meanings.

One use of the definitions tells us of a physical “hug” type experience.  This would seem to require at least two people who like each other enough to touch each other, to hold each other, and to be near each other for a few seconds or more.

Another sense of the word is that of acceptance in a wholehearted way. This is different than seeing reality as it is and being ok with it.  Instead, we “hug” reality in the same we would a friend whom we have not seen for a long time. We bring it into ourselves and realize that how it is will be a good way to move forward once we accept it.

These definitions of the word can mean so much more when we turn the concept onto ourselves.


When I look in the mirror sometimes, I do not have a clue who it is that I see. There are glimmers of a person who was as well as who is.  Who I am today is a sum of parts.  Some are negative while others are very positive. If I were honest, I would say that I most often feel compartmentalized into the various ages, stages, experiences, and feelings that combine to make me Stacy today.

Rarely – though more so as I age and become very conscious of this concept – do I feel whole.

While there is no running away from the sum of our parts, most of us have parts that we would like to shed.  We write stories in our heads about these parts – we think of it as memory, but is it?  I do not think so.  How I recall a situation and how you recall the same situation may be very different.  Where do we find the reality of it? We rarely do.

How scary is that?

The revisionist historian in me wants re-write my past so that I am victorious when I was not. When I am tempted to do this, I ignore the parts that make up my whole.  I desire to shed the poor decisions rather than look at them, learn from them, and grow because of them. Who I am today would be different if the path that brought me here changed.  When I attempt to change the past (impossible), I would risk changing who I am today.

I drove a lot last week.  Over 1200 miles of thinking time can be risky.  In this case, I think I found something. Somewhere in the last hundred miles, I found an image in my head that I cannot shake.

In my mind, the now-Stacy turned around and saw myself at an age that I would love to shed.  We all have them. We all probably have more than one of them. I certainly do.

I looked at her, and I realized that I am older, wiser, and stronger because of her.

Without her, I do not exist.

In my mind, I embraced her in all of the ways that the word can be used. I held onto her as you would a friend who is about to leave or who is about to fall apart. I apologized to her for wanting to get rid of her, for ignoring her, and for not seeing her strength. Perhaps most importantly, I accepted her into me as part of my whole self.  I allowed that me to be absorbed into the today me.

There are more little bits of me that need this type of embrace, and it probably is not a bad thing to take a moment each day to ask “myself” if there is a bit that is feeling rejected from me.  If rejection from others hurts, how much more does it hurt when we reject a bit of ourselves?

One of the synonyms that Merriam-Webster gives for embrace is cherish.

I love a good word definition search.  The thesaurus may be dying in some worlds, but it is alive and well in my world.  Give me a word, leave me alone to search down its likenesses, and I will find another way to see that word.  That is exactly what happened to me as I considered embrace in reference to myself and these parts that nag at me to see the world their way instead of as a combined vision of the whole of me.  In that search for what it really means to embrace those parts of me – to alleviate their stress of seeing the world their way – I found cherish.

All of the definitions I could find about cherish points to a very special way of seeing a person, place, or object.  When we cherish something, somewhere, or someone, we love and hold it so deeply that we can barely describe why. Words leave us, and emotions flood our senses.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror yesterday afternoon, I asked myself if I could continue to have the compassion that I found over the weekend. Time will tell, but it is my intention to look at the parts and shower love, understanding, and acceptance on them.



Ending #2 – for those who want to hear about how God fits in to this in my mind…..

One of the reasons that I bother to look at the bits and pieces of myself is because I trust the truth that these are words that God uses to see me. It is unfortunate that love is not the word that many people associate with God, but God is the ultimate lover of humanity. The now-Stacy trusts, knows, and hopes that God embraces and cherishes us regardless of the redemption and restoration that we need.

It is because of His eyes that we can embrace and cherish those bits and pieces of ourselves. It is God’s presence with us through it all that makes our shaky path straight – not because of who we were or are but because of what He did and does on our behalf.

He takes our bits and pieces and makes them whole again.



I have written about “parts of me” before, so I thought I would share with you the links to a few of those posts:

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I Like to Run…Away

A Confession: I Prefer Not to be a Bother

Image credit: http://oathkeepers.org/oktester/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/broken-mirror.png





Filed under faith, Thoughts

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I stayed in bed far too long yesterday morning. Excitement and fear paralyzed me as I looked forward to the lunch appointment I had on the University of Mary campus with someone who had intervened in one very specific moment in my life over 20 years ago.

When I was a freshman at Concordia College, my bipolar self was not diagnosed accurately.   The highs and lows of energy that I still experience manifested themselves in those days in a variety of ways such as chaotic eating, concentrated exercise schedules,  extended depressive episodes, odd sleep patterns, spurts of intense productivity,  and general silliness.  All of these things masked what truly bothers me – energy-based bipolar tendencies which a psychiatrist finally diagnosed correctly when I was 36 years old. During those college days, though, I spent a good amount of time “on the run” – something I still often feel tempted to do and have posted about in the past.

The church I attended during high school had a very active youth group. We went to camp, traveled on mission trips, and spent most Wednesday nights and weekends together.   Every Christmas and Easter, our group joined other groups from around North and South Dakota for retreats.  These were my good friends – the same friends that I found at camp. I married one of them, and I remain friends with most of the others to this day in some way or another (at the very least on Facebook).  I also had the opportunity to meet other adults from around the state who spoke into my life at various points throughout high school, college, and into my adult life.

Several weeks ago, I sat in a meeting with University of Mary Student Support Services staff members.  Each of my English 098 students has an advisor, and I wanted to share my thoughts, impressions, and concerns with the advisors as a group. I had emailed with many of them, but their supervisor and I thought it would be worthwhile for me to attend one of their meetings.  When we went around the table and introduced ourselves, one name…and the face…seemed oddly familiar.  I was completely caught off-guard but had to focus on my meeting.

After the meeting, I could not shake the impulse to contact her, so I did….by email…because that is the best way to find out information without exposing my soul to too much pain or rejection if I am wrong.

Ummm…were you, by chance, a youth leader from <<her church>> in the 90s?

I sat at my computer and waited for the reply. I refreshed my email several times, and then her response came – YES!  I shared a few more details about who I was “back then,” and her reply came back again…she remembered me!

The next day, we were at an event together.  When I saw her, I had mixed emotions about knowing that she knew that me…the me who left her dorm room in the middle of the night because the urge to run had overwhelmed her…the me who did not know how to deal with the thoughts that told her to run…the me who showed up in a driveway hundreds of miles away from college, slept in the car, and was found that way the next morning by the very woman standing in front of me…the me who this youth leader had encouraged to go back to school saying that I was fine.

“We should have lunch,” she said.

Yesterday, we had lunch.  Throughout the morning, though, all of the parts of me that feels and experiences joy, anxiety, and fear held my body in a paralyzing force.  The what ifs of how lunch could go raced through my mind and nearly kept me from going.  To be honest, I left the house later than I had planned, I took the long way to the university, and I thought I might just keep driving south to miss the lunch appointment altogether.  Eventually I put on my big girl pants, and I still arrived early.  Strange how that works!

All morning, I felt like “that me” again…young, frightened, and ready to run.  At the same time, I felt like the “this me” who is the dean of students of a new little online school in Minnesota, teaches classes at the University of Mary, is married to a pastor, and has two grown children attending Baylor University.  This paradox of us being able to feel two ages at once is something that I need to explore more in another post.

When we sat down, she asked me to tell her about me.  I was stunned and absolutely speechless.  I know – me! speechless??  I had no idea where to start.  There I was sitting in front of a woman who had found the eighteen year old me in her driveway after I had driven a few hundred miles and slept in my car…and she wanted to know about the “today” me – the forty year old pastor’s wife and mother of two freshmen in college.  It dawned on me that my own children are now the age of “the me” who ended up in her driveway that night.

As I told her about me, I told her the raw stuff without going into the icky details of any of it. We both have master’s degrees in education, work as guidance counselor types, and are familiar with the lingo, so it was easy to be sort of clinical about it all.

Before I knew it, lunch was over.  We parted ways as we each have jobs that need us.  We waved goodbye in that way that we do when we know the person is in the same town or on the same college campus most days.  The mood was light, and it became clear to me that all of my anxiety was silly.

Next week, I will drop off a book to the student success center where she works.  The book is a compilation of essays written by my students. The title is Unexpected Giants and is a tribute to those who have carried my students (and me) on their shoulders so that we could see futures that we could not have seen alone.

When I  mentioned the incident to her (as a point of reference for other incidents in my life), I used my favorite term – “crazy.”  She sort of laughed it off and said, “I worked with teenagers, Stacy.  I didn’t really think it was all that unusual.”

While my essay is not about this particular giant, it easily could be.  One day, I hope to write the book that features all of my giants.  I had good parents who did their best raising me.  But sometimes we need other caring adults to impact our lives as well.  This dear woman did that for me clearly – based on her comment to me yesterday – without judgement. I am thankful for the brief, yet powerful, role she played in my life.

I know that this season is busy, but can I challenge all who read this?  Whose life can you briefly touch today, this week, this month, this year, or this lifetime?  And…as you drive to work, put up the tree, or bake those cookies, consider who were giants in your life…and how you can let them know the powerful way that they impacted your life?



Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Mental Illness: It is an Illness

As I tried to get out of bed yesterday morning, this post wrote itself in my brain. With every re-setting of the alarm and clicking on the snooze button, paragraphs formed in my mind.  I was compelled to write it. I tried to be productive all day – because of my current (crazy and, honestly, about to get crazier) work demands – it took until 4 p.m. yesterday before I had time to actually sit down at my desk and write.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, we need to get educated about mental illness because it does not always look the way we expect it to.  With a little play on the “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” article’s title, I elaborated about how we expect depression (and other mental illnesses) to look one way, but they often look entirely different.

Each person’s experience with mental illness may look different than we expect.

medium_306983822As I thought about the post, though, I realized that – as important as the concept of knowing how depression and other mental illnesses may show themselves differently – accepting the fact that mental illness is an illness…rather than some manifestation of laziness or whatever negative adjective that has been used to describe the mentally ill…is pretty important.

Let’s all say it together (I dare you to say this out loud wherever you are right now): mental illness is an illness, and an illness needs to be treated. (Repeat as necessary)

If you (all) can agree with the truth that mental illness is an illness and – therefore – should be treated in the same way that other illnesses are treated, then another part of the stigma surrounding mental illness can be removed.

Just in case you cannot agree with this, I guess I will just keep writing the thoughts that came to me as I slept…and awoke…and slept…

Who withholds treatment from someone with diabetes?  No one!

I use diabetes as an example because it has several good correlations with mental illness.

  • Both can sometimes be controlled with diet, exercise, and life choices.
  • Both often require medication.
  • Both are controlled best when “patient” makes and keeps appointments with a trained professional.
  • Both require a lifetime outlook but could be mediated or “in remission” so to speak.

I know that I do better with my bipolar self when I eat better, walk or do yoga, and make good choices (like getting enough sleep).  When I do not do what I know I need to do, I am working against myself.  The same is true of a diabetic.  In some people with either illness, medications could be avoided (in some cases) when following the “life prescription” from our doctors.

However!!!! I had a good friend in high school who followed all of her doctor’s directions, and her cholesterol (yes, I switched illnesses…you can follow…) still required medication.  She was just five feet tall but weight under 100 lbs and never went to McDonalds.  She was not  someone you would expect to have a high cholesterol problem!  No matter what she did, though, she could not change her chemical make up without medication.

This is true of many with mental illness, but society often forgets that this is true.  There are many who expect those who suffer with depression to just pull it together or those who suffer from schizophrenia to stop hearing voices or seeing people who are not there.


If we accept that mental illness is an illness, then we need to agree that the illness may need treatment.  And that treatment could involve both life changes such as more exercise or eating right AND medication, therapy, or other things.  Telling the person with a mental illness to try harder is pretty insulting.

When we are someone who suffers from mental illness, we need to accept this, work with our health professionals, and make wise choices so that we can live as “normal” of as possible.  We may need to do a few things to help our condition, and we need to accept that and –  well – do them.  For example, I absolutely should start every morning with a walk.  When was the last time I did that??? Time to start – it helps!

When we are supporting someone who suffers from mental illness, we need to support that person, to hold that person accountable for going to appointments, and to encourage him or her to do all that will help – diet, exercise, medication, life changes…whatever! BUT we need to be careful and wise how we do that.  What we say is not nearly as important as how we say it.

In the past few months, I have taken some time off from this posting a lot on this blog.  While I did that, I took a blogging class that asked to consider why I write.  Originally, it was to help me to mediate the impact of my own bipolar self.

For nearly two years, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote about everything – things I saw, things I did, and things I thought.  I argued against myself from one week to the next on issues.  I ranted. I raved.  My fingers flew across the keyboard.

My mind emptied, quieted, and slowed.

The blogging helped me.

Now, though, I see my purpose in this blog to a voice for those who have lost their voice to whatever biological, psychological, or illogical sickness ails them.  I want to help those who have been marginalized because of society’s misunderstanding of the crazy we feel inside our head – and trust me, I think some crazy thinks sometimes.

The foundation for this purpose first and foremost has to be to help promote the fact that mental illness is an illness.  While those of us who suffer from it – just like someone who suffers from diabetes or high cholesterol – can make choices to help mediate it, we might not be able to “just get over it.”

And we need not only to be treated but to be respected, loved, and even cherished.

I am thankful for my family and friends who have walked this road with me over the past three years since my diagnosis. While I have probably always suffered, I was incorrectly diagnosed throughout my life. Now that we have an accurate diagnosis, we can have an accurate treatment plan.

But it is not easy being me…and is not always easy being around me…but that seems to be another blog. As usual, I have babbled…and have no idea how to end…so I will just stop writing…

Happy Wednesday!

photo credit: © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


Filed under health, Relationships, Social Justice, Thoughts

I Like to Run…Away…

As I write this and post it, I am also packing my bags…for another work trip. This makes five out of the past six weeks where I have had at least one night away from home.  While there are times that this gets tedious, the spring is a good time for it to happen because I get the urge to be on the go this time of year anyway.

I struggle with bipolar illness…and spring is a “go” time for me.

By “go” time, I mean I feel the urge to run away. I currently credit it to a manic phase brought on by the change in sunlight.  After being underground in the winter doldrums, the light comes out, stimulates my brain, and sends me soaring.  When I soar, I often feel as though I am in constant motion even though I appear to be still to everyone else.  This is the time when I tend to hear those internal voices that criticize and pester.

And one of those voices says to run…away…

Go. Leave. You are not worthy of the family you have. You do not deserve the life you have. You have to get out of here. You can’t handle this.  What if they (by the way – who is they???) find out what happens in your head? It’s all going to start to unravel sometime; you should just go before you have to deal with that.  What if you can’t pull off what you say you can? How are you ever going to parent/be-a-wife/be-a-pastor’s wife/ do a good job at work? Look at yourself. Listen to me. Run…

I hatched my first runaway plan the summer after I was in the fifth or sixth grade.  Because my parents were divorced when I was quite young, I grew up with my mom and (adopted) dad in North Dakota but spent portions of many summers visiting my biological father and his family on the East Coast.  I have many great memories of those summers, and I prefer to dwell on those; however, on one of those trips things did not go so well at my bio-dad’s house, and I felt the urge to run away.

Facing the situation no longer seemed like a good option, and I wanted to get out.

Running away is not a great idea for me – a wife, mother of two, dean of students at an online high school.  There are loves that would be hurt and jobs that would be jeopardized.I could detail the times that I have run away, but they are not the point of this post.  The point what do we do about this?  I know that I am not the only who feels these tendencies.


It is also not a healthy way to live!

But there is a push from inside, a physical need to go, and the fear of something that cannot be named or is not even real, and the voice gets very loud.  My head noise becomes overwhelming, and running – even a planned run like a work trip – seems like a good answer to help quiet it.

But it is not.

Running away never solves anything.  I still have to come back, and whatever was pushing me out the door (usually my own psychology) greets me upon my return.

I want to be clear: this is not a real voice.

My voices do not have names, they are not multiple personalities nor are they schizophrenic hallucinations that I see.  Rather they are an internal voice that I believe many of us have (I was reassured of that last night when I attended an event at the Art House North where Al Andrews, a counselor from Nashville, talked about this very concept!).

Telling someone else (safe) about the urge to run now usually quiets the voice.Telling the wrong person can cause the urge to increase.  As Al said last night, finding a safe community of people who can speak positively into our lives and balance these voices of the “inner critic” is so important.

This week has been a run time for me. There is not a trigger that I can figure out except that the snow is gone, the sun is out, and work has some stresses. How timely that the event at Art House North happened last night – it was exactly what I needed at that moment.  The tears that flowed down my face for the entire event proved that.

As I made my way to the event via the mall yesterday, I texted two friends and “vocalized” that my head was not doing well.  One responded with an offer to give me her voice to drown out the others.

… (just let that sink in for a minute…)

We need to be these positive voices for each other, and we – as hearers of the destructive voices – need to find those safe places where we can say these awful things out loud so that they no longer hold any power over us.  We name them, we claim truth against them, and we disable the power they have against us.  If you are a Christ follower, there are even more TRUTHS that you can cling to in order to combat these lies that we believe.

And then – maybe – we will stop running away…from ourselves…

This post is part of a brave blogging link-up that’s part of Liv Lane’s How To Build a Blog You Truly Love ecourse. As a participant, I was challenged to step outside my comfort zone and share something with you that felt especially brave. You can see what others have written by clicking here. (insert the link http://blog.livlane.com/2013/05/brave-2013)


Filed under health, Relationships, Thoughts

We are Like the Weather

Blogger’s note: I started this post several weeks ago and am back to it because this week has been much like that day…and I had the same thoughts but had not completed the post then.  I hope you enjoy the two days’ thoughts combined into one post.

As I drove to court this morning in Duluth, MN, I listened to the news which included the weather.  I did not need them to tell me that it was cold; that was quite clear to me as I sat in my car which was not quite warmed up.  As they shared the forecast for the weekend and beyond, a thought occurred to me.

The weather always changes.

As I sat outside the courtroom (waiting is the best part of a court day), I scrolled through the Facebook posts since last night when I went to bed.  I learned about my friend who is sick at home today, read some blog posts by people who are actually on top of their blogging efforts, and felt with my friend who struggles with depression and anxiety as he lamented his current mental state.

My response to him: Weather teaches us that things do not stay the same. Ever. The same is true with our own psyche.

As Minnesota opens its arms to welcome March, April, and May after a rather frigid winter, we are reminded that things rarely stay the same for long.  Three months seems like a pretty long time when we are in the middle of it, but in the grand scheme of things that is just not true.

Seasons in our psyche are very similar to weather and often even follow the weather patterns themselves.

This is where I left off and am going to continue on from here…


I took this picture yesterday evening as I brainstormed about this post.  Most of us had thought winter was over.  In fact, today is the first day of spring.  Apparently, someone did not notify the weather or the state of Minnesota that it should show off its greenery and stop with the snow.  After it snowed overnight Sunday and continued into Monday, many of us clamored through a horrible commute to work.  Schools to our west closed as blizzard conditions raged.

And today is the first day of spring?

Seasons in our psyche can do the same thing, right?

Just when we think some dark time in our lives has been cleared out for good, it comes raging back at us like a March blizzard in Minnesota (or North Dakota…or South Dakota, for that matter).  We know in our hearts that the dark time should be gone. We have dealt with it, prayed it away, and have experienced forgiveness. And then something brings it back – a low front from the Rockies with a comma effect snow.

But – like my (real weather) blizzard on Monday – the dark time can be dispelled by a little sunlight.  Following the low front of a weather system comes a high – bringing sunshine and warmth (although someone forgot to notify the weather of that as well – sunshine all day yesterday did not bring much warmth).

And what better light than the truth that God loves us?

I do not mean this is the “cheer up, pal, God loves you and everything will be alright” or “let the sunshine in; face it with a grin; smilers always win; and frowners never win” kind of rose-colored glasses sense.  It is simply truth.

God loves us; that is light in our lives.

With Easter right around the corner, it is time for us to start to focus on re-birth – our re-birth. For though we were sinners and lost to that, but – because of what Christ did on the cross – we are freed from the guilt of our sins and have the right to be called children of God – heirs to heaven…and with the ability to have the gift of heaven here on Earth.

This is truth…regardless of today’s weather or circumstance.  Whatever I experience inside my mind or outside in my day, the truth is truth.

Let’s hold to that today.

What is your experience with the weather inside of you?

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Filed under faith, health, Thoughts, Travel

A Library Find: “The Disappearing Spoon”

spoonThose who follow this blog (thank you for sticking it out, by the way) know that I travel often for my job and love to listen to books on CD to keep me company.  An 11 disc book is just about the right length for many of my trips, and The Disappearing Spoon has not disappointed me.

I rarely go to the library with a specific book in mind. In fact, I have found that I rarely enjoy those that I seek out specifically.  Instead, my library seeking goes something like this…


Go to the library.

Return books that I have finished or have chosen not to read.

Go to the row of books on CD.

Look through the usual fiction authors that I love such as Mary Higgins Clark to see if anything new has appeared.

Side note: I took a road trip from North Dakota to Rhode Island during the summer after my sophomore year in college.  A friend lent me several Mary Higgins Clark books on tape (no CD player in my car “back” then).  They are the perfect companion except very late at night as one crosses the state of Pennsylvania. As the dew-infested fog takes over the early morning (and one has had little sleep), they are pretty scary.

Back to the bookshelves.

If no fiction books pop out, I then go to the non-fiction to see if there is something “fun” that I could learn. 

Side note: Malcolm Gladwell is always a great find, but I have now read almost all of his books.  I think that I still need to read Blink.  Ok (as the huz likes to point out) – I have not read the books.  I have listened to them.

Non-fiction is a huge genre, and one cannot tell what one will find in this part of the shelves.  Last week, as I chose books for my trek north earlier this week (yes – in the slowest moving Minnesota snow storm of the season), The Disappearing Spoon stood out as a possibility.

I have decided that the trick to sucking in readers for these books is to have a great title along with a descriptive back cover. 

True here.

The Disappearing Spoon is a book for smart people (or people who want to be smart – that’s me)…at the very least, one needs to have an understanding of the fact that the periodic table exists.  It delves into the history and the science behind the creation of the periodic table, but more than that – it covers some of the mysteries and scandals that came out of its development.

While I have not had a chemistry class since college, the book was accessible enough to me (I brushed some cobwebs from parts of my brain that had stored information form “Chemistry for Non-Chemistry Majors”).  This means that most people could probably glean something from the book.

Side note: I took the above-mentioned chemistry class in the last semester of my senior year in college.  It was the same year that I missed several days due to having our first child. I would not have made it through that class without the help of my friend Heidi who tutored me for hours.

Another side note: the entire point of generals in college is to help us discover what we might want to do when we grow up (as well as to develop well-rounded citizens).  Allowing me to take the chemistry class at the end of my college career was a huge disservice to me.  What if I was actually a budding chemist who might have won a Nobel Prize some day?  All of that is lost now…hopes dashed against the wall of poor scheduling.

It is unreal how many rabbit trails I have taken in this post!

I have not finished the book (I have disc remaining), but I have heard the information which drew me to the book: why lithium works to stabilize bipolar illness.  I listened intently to the first 8 discs just sure that – at any moment – the author would delve into the chemistry behind the psychological illness whose tendencies live (and sometimes rage) inside of me.

The opening of disc 9 dove right into what I wanted to hear, and I feel that – like no other time – I finally understand bipolar tendencies.  The author stated that sunlight stimulates proteins to attach to DNA in our brains.  This attachment creates our awake state.  Darkness at the end of the day causes the proteins to fall off, and we need to sleep.   

The proteins hang on to the DNA in the brains of people with bipolar illness; thus, the continued awake state – or mania.  Eventually the body and mind have had enough, and the depressive side comes in.

Lithium breaks the bonds between the proteins and the DNA.  During the day, sunlight helps to keep the bonds together, but – once darkness comes – the lithium wins out. This resets the circadian rhythm and essentially balances out the person’s awake and sleep cycle.

So cool!

That is what I am reading…what about you?  What are you reading?  What is the coolest thing you have learned lately?

PS: If you want to know why the book is named The Disappearing

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Filed under Education, health, Thoughts, Travel

A Season For Blogging Less

Each week when I go to church, I am greeted by a friend who calls me “the famous blogger.”  Part of that phrase is true – I do blog.  However, even that has been less true of late.  In fact, I am probably equally not a blogger as I am not famous.  This week I have been somewhat plagued by the question of why that is the case. 

Why am I not blogging?

To answer that question, I have a to explain some about who I am and how I tend to approach life in general.  Some would call it ADD (only by today’s standards, FYI, as I think there is far too much of that label going around); some would call it the bipolar tendencies (even that is questioned sometimes – even by me).  I call it Stacy.

My faith, my marriage, and my children are the few things to which I have remained committed for any length of time.

When we lived in Scotland from August 2001 to June 2002, I held five different positions.  Think about that for a minute.  We lived there for ten months, and I had five different positions.

Pause here.  Did you think about that?? 

To be fair to myself, I worked a few part-time gigs at a time. For example, a few shifts at Starbucks were combined with two nights a week at a bookstore (they had not combined the two “back then” and “over there”) as well as a stint as a note-taker in a university class three mornings a week.  When that semester was over, I did some time as an educator at the Edinburgh Zoo before I took a long-term sub teaching position at a secondary school.

All of the moves were strategic, of course.

To a certain extent, the current state in which I find myself could be seen as strategic as well.  I have a lot going on (wife, mom [they are teenagers!], pastor’s wife, dean of student [basically, I just go to court a lot], new business owner, etc.), and something has to give. 

Blogging is what has given this time around.

So – what’s the problem?

The problem is that I like blogging, and I have loads of ideas of things about which I would love to write on my blog.  The problem is that I like the feedback that I get from people who read my blogs. The problem is that I like sitting on my seat and writing to empty my brain more than I like being stretched and twisted into “relaxation” by the yoga instructor.

But it just has to give right now.

I want to write quality stuff, and I do not have the time or energy most of the time to write quality stuff.  I think it is best not to add to the congested mess in the blog-o-sphere of words piling up on words just for the sake of spilling more words when the same end could be met by different means (taking a walk, perhaps?).  I started blogging for myself – to spill my mind – and in doing so, somewhere along the way, I started caring more about writing what would get me more hits than what would help me to feel sane.

So – for now, anyway – the blog may be silent.

And on other days, it may be very noisy.  Who knows?

I certainly do not.


Filed under faith, health, Thoughts

Suicide: A Preventable Cause of Death

Today is considered suicide awareness day by those who decide those things. In line with that thinking, I have chosen to reblog a post that I published on May 1, 2012.

I would love for us all to become more aware of each other and prevent this cause of death (10th leading cause in America according to the CDC). Suicide is not a disease or a crime, but it takes lives at an alarming rate. Let’s pay attention to each other, read between the lines, and ask clarifying questions so that we can help those who may consider this as an option to escape the emotional pain they experience.


Yesterday was another day of on the road time for me.  I do love that my job takes me on the road from time to time; however, the past month and the next month seem to be filled with more times on the road than in my own bed.  My office at work sits empty, but my backpack and my travel bag are always full.  And travel time – especially over the past week when I have been without a book on CD – lends itself to thinking time.

Thinking is an excellent activity.  I firmly believe that we should do it and that we should do it often.  Those who do not think tend to become those who do not do.  Thinking – whether analytical or reflective – is motivating, inspiring, and problem-solving.  We can only accomplish those great dreams if we first think them up.

However, thinking too…

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Struggling with Bipolar

On Sunday evening, as I shared about Pray! Shirt Fridays and its beginnings, I dropped a phrase that I tend to use – “I struggle with bipolar.”

It was meant to explain some of what led me to open a business to support an idea that a few camp counselors had that could lead to a region-wide or nationwide movement.  The phrase was meant to just explain away why I, a woman with plenty to do, would add more to her plate by ordering 500 t-shirts and starting a website for the business.  It was meant to share a bit of who I am so that what I did made more sense.

Sometimes my words open doors in other’s minds.

Later on Sunday evening, as I prepared to roast marshmallows for the girl’s s’more, a woman approached me and said, “When you mentioned you ‘struggle with bipolar,’ what did you mean?”

What does that mean?

It was a choice of words, really. 

I could have said, “I am diagnosed with bipolar tendencies.” Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar.  I could have said, “I take medication to control bipolar tendencies.”  Instead, I said that I struggle with bipolar.

And this choice of words led to a conversation.

I am open to the conversations that come from the choice of words that I use.  I want to be open to sharing my experience – as limited and new as is it – with others.  So many people have said that they are shocked with how open I am with the struggles I have, but I am shocked that this is shocking.

We have to stop hiding our struggles from each other.

I know that a lot of our struggles are embarrassing.  Why wouldn’t we hide our struggles? Why wouldn’t we keep things to ourselves?  Who wants to share about not sleeping for days on end during a mania or about staying in bed for days at a time during a low?

What if hiding from each other is hurting each other?

By keeping all of our struggles to ourselves, we make them taboo.  I am not advocating for us to just talk and talk and talk about what we are going through, but I am advocating for there to be more authentic community – especially in the church.  Moving into a deeper relationship with others in our church community should be a goal.

This is really scary – I know that.  As someone who is pretty open about her struggles, I have been hurt by being honest about what kind of day or week that it is in my life.  It has not been easy being open about this struggle in my life. The thing is that I just do not know any other way to be.  I cannot keep silent about what is happening in my head and in my mind because I have seen how much silence has hurt others in the past.

Silence about struggles hurts everyone.

When we keep silent about issues in our lives, others – who struggle with similar issues – feel like they have to keep silent as well.  And this just makes everything bigger than it is.  And it leaves us alone with our issues.

The worst feeling I have ever felt is that of being alone.

God never intended us to be alone.  He is with us always, and He gave us community to surround us when we struggle.  We are not meant to be alone, and God has provided us with each other to ensure that we are not alone.  When we do not acknowledge this and do not share our lives with each other, we work against what God has intended.

I struggle with bipolar – I have been diagnosed with its tendencies, and I medicate to stay balanced.  This is not something that makes me jump up and down with joy, but – if it is what I have in my life – I will share it with others because I have benefited when others have shared with me.

I say that I struggle because it is not easy to experience a change energy levels at the whim of my chemistry.  I say that I struggle because it is not fun to know that today’s mania will only last so long and the productivity that I love will turn into a lack of energy that I tend to detest.  I say that I struggle because this “disorder” is not something that is well accepted in the work place, the church, or just about anywhere.  I say that I struggle because I get strange looks when I share about it.

It is a struggle.

We all struggle with something – physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual.  Because of sin’s impact on the world, we struggle.  And the best medicine out there will not be able to completely take away the impact of sin.  When one disorder or illness has been knocked out, another will come along thanks to the impact of sin in the world.

But we do not struggle without the promise of redemption. 

On Friday, I read the post of a dear young lady who serves in Africa.  She typically blogs about stories of redemption, but on Friday she laid out a brave and raw post about the hard stuff without the redemptive ending.  Her post hit me in the heart and reminded me that we have not been promised redemption now.  That was never part of the promise, but the promise still remains.

So – I struggle, but I struggle with the hope that redemption for us all is on its way.

In His time…


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts