Of the field.

Is this what it means to be a moment?
The way the baby grows right up and out of her clothes,
the way she stares blankly one day and belly laughs the next?

Is this what it means to be a child of God?
Beloved for shitting right through her pants,
vomiting down her mother’s chest,
screaming all night,
screaming all day.

Adored, cherished, chased,
ferociously protected,
understood
for nothing.

Tended to and loved because you are
Fought and provided for because you breathe
Never doing anything more than need and want.

I will not abandon you.
I will not give you a snake.

Day 38 #powerrehab: Yes, Coach.

I run in circles.  Big circles that take years to finish, small circles that close before lunch.  Round and round, passing the same landmarks again and again, almost never noticing anything further than my own feet.  Every now and again I am fortunate to have my loops interrupted by people who love me, people who will lift my head, shake me by the shoulders, give me a firm smack across the face.

After lamenting cupcakes and wine yesterday, I received an email from a dear friend who I had the privilege of coaching several years ago.  The message began, “This is not to be mean but because sometimes the coach needs a coach and it is ironic that we know things and forget them and need to remember.” I confess that I instantly closed my computer and started deep breathing to stave off a panic attack because who doesn’t love a message that begins with “This is not to be mean”!?  But I remembered the sender and her heart, and knew she could only be “not mean” in love, so I went back in.

The voice that met me was indeed love, but it was not my friend’s, it was my own.  She had forwarded me a string of messages we exchanged when she was wrestling with ketosis while battling depression and I was the one interrupting her circles.  And because coaching questions never, ever expire, email never really disappears, and truth is extremely loud, the voice still works:

“Life without sugar and bread feels more like surviving than thriving.”

How do you define “surviving”?
How do you define “thriving”?

When you first wrote to me, you described bingeing, “auto-pilot” eating, and “never-ending cycles” of losing and regaining control over the food and drink that went into your body.  How does that behavior fit into surviving vs. thriving?

In that first message, you expressed a longing for God to “heal [your] desires and obedience”.  I invite you to reframe this season of your life — is it one of deprivation or discipline?  Is it punishment or training?

These 30 days are restrictive by your own design.  You are trusting God to use the tools of nutrition to reshape your body, your mind,  and your behavior.  There is a sense in which you are surviving withdrawal, surviving temperance, self-control, and dying to the flesh.  But at the same time, you are thriving in obedience, humility, and hope.

This is a very difficult season for you for many reasons.  Your God knows that, and he has drawn your boundary lines in pleasant places.

What are some ways that you can feel God loving you?
Are there any ways that you are resisting or fighting his affection toward you?
Where are you bristling at his discipline in your life?
How is he inviting you to surrender to his love and strength?

…Rachel

Stretch.

Do not stay down.
Get up.
Begin.

Begin.

Drink your coffee and tell me a story.  Tell me how you won’t be so anxious today, how you will wrap your arms around the morning like a baby, fresh born.  Tell me how you will hold it and feed it at your breast, love it though you don’t know who it will be quite yet.  You don’t know what it will do or say or take or give.  Tell me how you will love it just for dawning.

I love this day just for dawning,
for climbing up in the thick morning,
for moving the clouds and the pages,
for bringing mercy, fresh white, well fitting.

Newborn day,
nameless day,
you are mine.

Day 16 #powerrehab: Boundary lines.

Here is the sum of it:

Hello pain.

I see you.

Yes, I see you.

Hello.

And no more conversation than that.  Head back into the book, pen back to scribbling whatever sentence it left mid scrawl.  There is no need to get into all that.  I don’t need to know the details.  We don’t have to gossip.

Yesterday I walked two miles because I let my pain come with me without talking. I was busy trying to arrange an immensely rare night out among two immensely rare old friends, so I did not even notice how far I’d gone until it was too late.  Yes, this meant I was one of THOSE people on the trail, face down in their phone, missing all the wildflowers and frequently running the stroller right into them, but please don’t judge me too harshly.  Rule one!

By the time I realized I had made it all the way to the Rowing Center, I turned to my pain and shouted, “Why didn’t you stop me! Now we will be late!”

“I tried,” he snapped back, throbbing and red, “you were so excited and distracted by your friends and your plans you weren’t listening.”

“That’s weird.  That doesn’t sound like me at all.  Am I manic!?”

“No.  We’re not at the mall and you’re not going very fast.  It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“Well, then gold star for us!  Let’s turn around!”

As I limped, proud and slow back toward the Y, Eye of the Tiger and visions of #powerrehab star charts dancing in my head, I was reminded of the classic motherhood and powerlifting truism: it doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger. I stared at the flowers and I glanced at my pain and I decided that if it has to always be there, then so be it. It is welcome to murmur through the bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes.  It is welcome to grumble to itself through ladies’ night.  And I am welcome to be all of those places, too, ignoring him.

Without scraping the scar tissue and screwing bones together, my pain is not going to go away (and even then, no promises).  Without a lobotomy, my bipolar disorder and anxiety are not going to go away.  My body is my body.  This is my spacious place.  I have to trust that my boundary lines make room for the mother and the writer and the wife and the friend and the pain.  We can all live here.  

In the green.

I quit meds eight years ago.  I did not go cold turkey, run wild and squeal, “Nanny nanny boo boo!  Psych meds are a joke!”  No, I titrated down with the help of a psychiatrist, a tiny baby in my belly, and a year of stability under my mental health belt.

I spent the years that followed perfecting a formula to replace the lithium I had faithfully swallowed everyday the decade before.  Like all great discoveries, I found ketosis by accident.  In an attempt to change my weight, I changed my brain.  Ketosis worked better than lithium ever had and it lifted the haze I had been swatting at my whole life.  Then came exercise, at first just a way to push the babies round and round to sleep, then a way to run straight up hills, then a way to pick my weight up off the ground until I found myself unreasonably calm.  And with both came deep, solid sleep, the kind that wakes you up in the morning all by itself, full.

Ketosis was my anti-depressant.  Powerlifting was my mood stabilizer.  Sleep was my anti-psychotic.

This formula worked so well, I bottled it.  I was my own pharmacist, measuring precise doses each day.

So it should be no surprise that when my formula fell apart, when my spine crumbled and I lost exercise, when stress knocked me out of ketosis and head first into cupcakes, when post-surgical narcotics had a paradoxical effect and stole whole weeks of sleep, that my brain would come tumbling down.

The good news is that nothing catastrophic happened outside of my head.  I was able to stay out of the hospital with the help of quick doctors, a good husband, lots of babysitters, friends, and an excellent therapist.  I didn’t drain the bank account or fly off the roof.  My kids got the truly fun parts of mania: fantastic tea parties, Bulild- A – Bear, the Lego store, and all the Muppet movies (except that creepy Treasure Island one. Yikes!) and several amazing babysitters who will stay with us for a season.

And in the end, we are all okay.

This is the brilliance of fighting mental illness out loud, with a crowd.  Mine is not a secret battle.  This is not a secret blog.  I have help beyond fountain pens.  My kids have help beyond Sesame Street.  My husband has help beyond Bluebell Homemade Vanilla.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, visible and invisible and they are quick to swoop in, despite my comfort level, to intercede.  I am not alone, out in the field.

My precise formula may have failed, but this one holds firm.  And while these new medicines I’ve swallowed work their chemical magic (and yes, they are working!) I grow increasingly thankful that I have this skilled team fighting for me while I go back to just dealing with a bad back.  Just a bad back.  Which doesn’t seem as hard a pill to swallow.Image

I should probably update my about page.

It should read: Bipolar pen lady hurt her back and talks about drugs. She used to be fat. I think she has kids.

It is a true story.

While technically a blog about manic depression and obesity, I do use fountain pens and writing as therapy. This has always been the case, but it wasn’t until I was sidelined by a stupid back injury that I thought to mix them all up.

That injury and the subsequent use of narcotics gave me the space and drug induced bravery to blog again after a season of juggling tiny babies and heavy weights. I may not have been blogging, but I was always writing. I have never, ever, not had a notebook. And I have never, ever not had a very strong opinion about pens. Or most other things, really. But especially pens.

In my absence, WordPress got fancy, added likes and stats and whatnot, so I’ve been able to see that while there’s a good deal of interest in crazy, there is twice the interest in crazy AND fountain pens. Interpret that as you will.

So, if you’re here for a story about being formerly obese and managing manic depression with fountain pens, food, faith, and exercise (and therapy, and medication, and babysitters, and the occasional housekeeper) in the context of homeschooling three small children while recovering from a serious back injury in beautiful downtown Austin, TX, you’ve found the right blog!