Sunday, July 26, 2015

One Year of Speaking

Yup. The title says it all. Today marks the one-year anniversary of my speaking!

I have so many memories of the past year, as I have met more and more of you along the way. I've celebrated recovery with some of you, mourned the loss of others, and have been concerned when you and I relapsed. 

I can see that my future is brighter than ever. I plan to pursue my dreams and be flexible when a change of plans is inevitable. If my future is bright, then the teens and young adults who live with depression and other mental illnesses have futures that are blinding. Your stories will inspire others to trudge through hard times because we made it--and so can they. 

My first speaking engagement was a powerful experience. It was then that it sunk in how much I can impact people with my story. It was then that I really became pumped to speak anywhere and everywhere. To talk to so many unique and wonderful people with amazing stories of their own. And so many events followed. Too many to name.

And there are certain moments in time I hope I never forget. Comforting someone with anxiety. Watching a teen walk to a counselor after hearing me speak and talking to me privately. Interacting with groups of peers and parents who are ready to spread my message to the ends of the earth. And my two favorites: meeting those who only a short time ago were severely depressed, but now in recovery, and hearing how some of my fellow teens decided not to go through with their suicide plans because they heard my talk.

Whew! I'm about to cry.

I can't wait to see what this next year will bring. Whose lives I'll touch and be touched by. And who you'll be able to reach as you recover and choose to share your stories.

Oh, and if you want to celebrate my anniversary with me in person, catch me (and other fantastic speakers) at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference! It's gonna be a blast. One of the best parts? There will be awesome new merch just for you (which will be revealed soon).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To My Past Self

Recently, at one of my talks, I was asked a question: "What would you say to your past self?"

I was floored. I'd never been asked that before. And when I repeated the question so the rest of the audience could hear it, a collective "oooh" swept across the auditorium. After taking a moment to think about it, I gave it a shot (I love sci-fi, so I could totally see this entire scene playing out). Here's what I said:

"I would tell myself that I'm suffering from a treatable disease. That I can find the happiness I so badly want to get back. That I can move on with my life and do great things with the talents and experiences I've been given. That there is hope. And I can overcome this."

And over the next few weeks, I gave this more and more thought. How much I wished someone had told me that. How much regret I have because I didn't know what I know now. I think almost everybody has something in their past they wish they can take back, but part of living is accepting that you made mistakes. Things happened.

Now let's take those experiences and use them to our advantage. To do our best to not repeat the same mistakes. And when we do fall, we'll get back up and try again. Even if we need someone's help to do so.

Take the regret of yesterday and burn it down.
Take the hope of tomorrow and live it now.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Signs: Anger

I'm back again this month in the latest episode of "Signs"! Anger can be an overwhelming obstacle when you're trying to recover from depression. In this episode of "Signs", learn some practical tips on how to recognize and overcome it.

(If you're viewing this in an email, please click here)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Update on My Mental Health

(If you're viewing this in an email, click here.) 

So, that's what I've been up to. I greatly appreciate all the love and care you showered me with in the latest chapter of my journey. I wanted to get better, in part, for all of you. But I'm truly feeling that I'm fully back in recovery. I know now that things can change at any time, and my family, friends, and I need to be watchful.

Oh, and here's a taste of what camp was like:

Water wars. Now that was fun.
Dodgeball. That was intense.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Darkness Returns

When I entered into my recovery after months and months of pain and determination, I thought that I was there to stay--mentally healthy forever. I'm aware that people relapse, and I know I'll have this disease my whole life, but I thought I'd be symptom-free going forward.

I was wrong.

The last few weeks (I'm not sure how long this has been going on) I haven't been feeling so well. I first noticed that something wasn't right about two weeks ago when I became angry inside. And I'm not talking just normal irritation. I was focused on little things that shouldn't be making me feel that way. It scared me because I knew that it was completely irrational. And as I thought about it, I realized that I had been declining for a while, but I didn't even know it. I examined myself more and more and eventually came to the conclusion that I was probably suffering from a relapse. Something I thought I'd never have to go through.

But realizing it wasn't the scariest part--that was reserved for telling my parents what was happening. Although I had no reason to be afraid, and I knew they'd be supportive and understanding, I almost didn't do it. I was afraid of their reaction and unsure of how to say it. I'm not good at communicating my feelings. I'm just not. But I summed up all the courage I had in me, reminded myself of the advice I give others, and told my mom that I wasn't feeling well and I wanted to see a therapist (I talked to my dad that night when he came home from work). And, yes, they immediately jumped to help me in any way possible, including asking me if I was suicidal.

If I was scared, imagine how they were feeling.

We talked. A lot. And as we talked, we were able to isolate the main symptoms I was experiencing (it pays to know the them well) and possible reasons and triggers. Signs for me included interior anger, predominantly, but I was also feeling a lack of energy, obsessiveness/anxiety, and just plain down. That all crept up on me when I wasn't looking. I made an appointment with a counselor for the following week and saw my spiritual director (a great Miles Christi priest) within a couple of days.

I've been doing whatever I can to treat these symptoms in a healthy way, such as going to bed at a regular time, eating right, talking with friends, and letting my parents know how I feel. I thank God that I'm not suicidal, but that's why it's important to recognize the signs early. I'm starting to climb out of the cave, and now I'm having good days and some not-so-good. But this is life with depression--and I'll take it over not living.

My first reaction was to keep this quiet. After all, I'm the teen who beat depression and suicide, and now educates thousands of people a year on how to overcome it. But I am unashamed of this disease and want to be an example to others who relapse after recovery. If I can't be transparent and real, then I won't be able to save as many lives.

So my advice from what I'm experiencing right now is to recognize your depression, grab it by the throat, and defeat it--again and again, if you have to.

I'll keep you updated on how everything's going. And I ask for your support and prayers. Thank you so much for being a part of my journey. You can't imagine how comforting it is to have the love of so many people while I'm in the midst of murky waters.

You are my life preservers.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Signs: Keeping Secrets

Keeping secrets is one of the most common--and most destructive--symptoms of teen depression. So that's why I made it the subject of the Signs video for this month of June. Check it out! #UnleashtheSigns