Friday, January 13, 2017

Thank you, L.A., for Being Unashamed!

Whew. I just got back from Los Angeles, CA, where I was so blessed to give a round of talks to three high schools and a youth group. In total, I reached about 2,000 teens, teachers, and principals over the course of four days. And, boy, did everyone have energy! Here's just a snippet of the feedback these amazing students gave.

"Now I know what to do."

"Thank you for showing me that I'm not alone."

"That was literally the best speech I've ever heard in my life."

"You've inspired me to be unashamed of my story."

Wow. It blows me away what power each one of our stories has. I also want to thank Msgr. Sal for initiating and organizing this entire trip. You're a difference-maker, and this entire community salutes you for that. And if you belong to a group, school, or event, I'd love to share my message there as well. Just email me at

Day 1: St. John's youth group
"Wait. So we are taking a picture."

Day 2: Paraclete High School
"Everybody! We're taking a group picture!"

Day 3: St. Mary Star of the Sea High School
"Look! I made it in."

Day 4: St. Joseph's High School
"Hold on. Someone needs to squat." (Hence me being in mid-squat.)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Four Years: From Mom's Perspective

"I hate my family. I hate my life. But most of all, I hate the woman who calls herself my mother." The moment I read Luke's note, four years ago today, was the moment I realized he was depressed and suicidal. He never gave an indication before he attempted to end his life. But it was too late. He already took the van. I already called the police. And our lives had already changed forever. For an entire hour, I thought Luke was dead. He suffered from a potentially fatal illness, and I never had a chance to help him. I felt - for just one hour - the pain and anguish of losing a child to suicide. And I thought I'd die myself. Today, I want to honor families of teens who have died by suicide. I'm in awe of your strength, courage, and willingness to help others. You are my heroes. Just as I've never been ashamed of Luke or anything he's done, and I'm proud to call him my son, I invite you to tell me about your special and unique child who has passed, is suicidal, or struggles with mental illness. I look forward to reading your comments and growing together as a community.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

5 Ways to Become a Superhero Accountability Partner

I struggle. You struggle. Everyone struggles. Maybe we all have different weaknesses, but we all have at least one major cross to bear. And one thing that helped me during my journey into recovery was having someone to talk to. Someone who I could say anything I wanted to, and they would just keep on loving me no matter what.

accountability partners
That's what an accountability partner is. Someone to be there with you through every step of your journey. They're a shoulder to cry on, a friend to rejoice with, and a mentor to give you advice when you seem faced with an impossible decision. From what I've seen from humanity, almost everyone would like to be that friend. That's why I'm going to help you become a superhero accountability partner. And for those who are married or close to it, you and your spouse are accountability partners to each other, so these next five tips are for you, too ;)

1. Make Promises to Each Other
This has to be the first step. Otherwise, what are you going to hold them accountable for? Some examples from your partner would be: "I promise to call you if I'm having a panic attack or am feeling suicidal" or "I promise to go for a run if I'm feeling depressed" or "I will turn off my computer if I start getting into stuff that makes me feel depressed." And some examples of your promises would be: "I promise to pick up the phone and talk to you if you call" or "I promise to go running with you if you're feeling depressed" or "I promise to listen to you and walk with you on your journey." Of course, these are just examples, but they can make a big difference to someone who's struggling. It lets them know that they're not alone in this journey and have someone they can rely on. Of course, be absolutely positive to only make promises you can keep.

2. Schedule Regular Checkups
This can be a brief text to see if your partner has been keeping the promises made in Step 1, or can take longer when discussing the day, week, or month. It lets then know they are important to you and you're thinking of them. Make a habit and stick to it. Irregular meetings or messages will mostly likely not to be as helpful as regular meetings.

3. Challenge Each Other
Another reason to have regular checkups is to make a specific challenge to each other every time. Challenges could include something as simple as brushing your teeth twice a day or as difficult as running five miles every day. It helps me to start small, then I gradually set my goals higher and higher as I accomplish them.

4. Hold Each Other Accountable
Now, I know this sounds like the "no, duh" step, but when your partner fails in their challenges or promises, you need to hold them accountable. They messed up and need to know it. But I'm not saying beat them down because they failed. Of course not! I'm saying they need to know you care and want them to try harder not to make the same mistake again because you believe they can succeed. Remember, part of their motivation to succeed should be to not let you down at your regular checkups. No human wants to disappoint someone they look up to.

5. Be the Example
If you mess up your promises or challenges, admit it. Be sorrowful. If you're not working on the challenges that your partner is giving you or sticking to your promises, how is your partner going to? They're your accountability partner just as much as you are theirs. You build each other up. You struggle together. You win together. As a team. As friends.

So, now you know how to be that help to your peers! If you have any other thoughts about being a great accountability partner, let me know in the comments below so I can learn as well.

There's a reason why I'm so transparent about my difficulties, my failings, and my story. You all are my accountability partners. Whether you like it or not. I want to grow to be a better person and help you all in the process.

That's what being unashamed is all about.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Old Friend, Anxiety: Part 2

So remember that amazing trip I took last month to Poland and Rome? If you don't, that's okay. I had a great time!

But something you don't know is that on the plane ride home, I was suddenly seized by a massive panic attack.

I was sitting next to my friend, minding my own business (I think was eating at the time), when all of a sudden I felt an overwhelming pressure. You know in movies how they focus on the person and the sounds around them just become background noise with their heartbeat taking over? That's what it felt like. I got out of my seat and tried to walk it off, but then it all came crashing down on top of me.

I rushed back to sit down as my breathing and heart rate quickened. I was barely able to speak to my friend, but I managed to say, "I'm having a panic attack." He looked shocked, immediately grabbed my hand, and starting asking me what I needed. But by that time, I was in full panic mode. The plane around me became a blur. I couldn't think, couldn't speak, and couldn't react. I was shaking, I couldn't catch my breath, and my heart was beating out of my chest.

I felt like I was about die.

Most of what I remember was just clenching onto my friend's hand as tight as possible. About 10 minutes passed before I told my friend, "Give me your phone. I need to write down my symptoms so I'll remember them later." This was by far the worst panic attack I can ever remember happening. Time grew to be meaningless. A flight attendant tried to help, but it had progressed to a point where my limbs became numb and my joints were locked solid. All I could do was hold my friend's hand tighter.

After about 30 minutes, the feeling ebbed, and I became more relaxed. I thought it was finally ending. But unfortunately, that calming only lasted for a minute or so. Eventually, after about 45 minutes of this wrenching torture, my mind and body slowed down. And after that, I was fine. I still have no idea what caused it. I haven't had a panic attack in years, so this really shook me up.

Now writing this, I'm shivering just recalling the event. I haven't had another episode since, so it must have been some combination of a severe headache (I got sick the first day in Rome #thatsucks), the long trip, and maybe some other factor I didn't notice. And if you know me, you know I always look at bad situations and try to find the positive. So the good news is that I was reminded what the teens who suffer from anxiety are going through, my friend now knows how to help me and others who experience the same symptoms, and all of you get a taste of what a full blown panic attack is like if you've never experienced it yourself.

So I tell you this not to scare you or garner sympathy, but simply to demonstrate that healing is a lifelong journey. And while this journey is extremely daunting, boy is it handy to have a friend by your side.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Yep. I'm twenty years old.


For all of you awesome email subscribers, click here to see the full blog post with the video.

So I want you to make a 20 second friend. Today!

Now go be a difference-maker and stay unashamed.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm Turning 20!

I know, I can't believe it either. But as you might remember, I like you giving presents on my birthday. However, I don't want you to give them to me. Instead, I want you to give birthday presents to the people around you. What do I want you to give? Tune in on October 1st at 9am when I'm going live on Facebook to tell you what I'm asking you to do this year for my 20th birthday (I'll also be posting a blog post about it). Let's make this epic!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Great Bend, Kansas, Here I Come!

You may remember last year when I was able to impact the attendees at the Catholic Family Conference in Kansas by giving two talks and sharing some knowledge on a speakers' panel. Well, I must really love the beautiful state of Kansas because I'm going back this week!

From September 13 through 15, I'll be in Great Bend, KS, speaking a total of five times to different groups of high schoolers, middle schoolers, and parents. I can't wait to touch the more than 1 in 4 of teens who are suffering from mental health challenges to share my story of hope and redemption with them and to give them concrete tips on how I overcame depression and suicidal thoughts. And of course, friends and family have a huge role to play as well. One of my greatest joys to witness is when people realize how they can help their friend or child understand that he or she makes an indelible mark on the world.

I'd love to speak to the parents and youth in your community as well! All you have to do is email me at for more info.

Unashamed. Period.