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College: A Dream Deferred.

I recently submitted this post as an article to be published, but it was denied. So, I'm posting it here, with a few additions and edits. 
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about mental health, it’s that illnesses are really just lists of symptoms. In the last 7 years, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Anxiety. Some disorders and diseases overlap in symptoms. It’s not the label that defines you. But the symptoms? Sometimes they do define you, as much as you hate to admit it. This is the story of how my symptoms and several diagnoses slowly—from age 9 to 25—overcame my dream of graduating from college.
I had always dreamed of going to Abilene Christian University, the same school my parents, my brother, all my cousins, and even several of my aunts and uncles attended. It is a small school in West Texas that most people have never heard of, but to me, it was the only school. I grew up attending their Leadership Camps on campus since the summer after 3r…

Sacred Space: Switchfoot on a Tuesday night.

I went to one of my sacred spaces last night. To you, it may sound like an ordinary place, or to some even a dumb place. To me though, this place is utterly sacred. Last night I went to a Switchfoot concert. 
Allow me to explain...
I have been a big fan of Switchfoot since about 5th grade when I heard their first major single. I became a huge super-nerd-fan of Switchfoot when I finally saw them live for the first time on my 16th birthday. 
There was no turning back. 
I saw them again live for my 17th and 18th birthdays...actually, I've seen them almost every time they've come to Texas since my 16th birthday. So, I think I've been to between 8-10 of their concerts; I've literally lost track. It's a familiar place, but I've actually only seen them in the same venue twice. I've taken lots of different friends with me to these concerts, and at one time a friend and I were members of their official fan club, which meant we had special passes to meet them before …

Public Private Letters, Part 7: Dear Evan.

Dear Evan,

You're a Soul Friend. It's kind of like a best friend, except you can have many more than just one. You're one of mine.

As I'm writing this, you're sitting across from me at Starbucks, getting started studying. You just finished telling me how stressed you are about a bunch of things. I'm here to tell you I believe in you! I always I have. I believe you can do it. You always do!

It's been such a joy to see you grow up over the last 6 years or so. From a camper on my first hall at camp to an almost-graduate of college, you've come a long way--and so have I (although it often feels like I'm stuck in the same place!). You've been a constant encouragement to me, even when you probably didn't realize it. I loved being your Big in club, but I honestly felt like you encouraged me more often than I encouraged you!

Here's a few memories I have of you and some ways you have impacted me that you may not be aware of, and I'm fairly c…

Public Private Letters, Part 6: Dear (Hopeful) Husband.

Dear (Hopeful) Future Husband,

I don't know where you are, or if you even exist. Perhaps God is calling me to a life of singleness. I'd probably go down that route kicking and screaming though. (If I'm being honest, I already have been kicking and screaming while wondering where you are!)

It's always been part of my life dream to be married and have a family. So, I'm truly waiting for you, Husband. I am. But you are not a guarantee or a promise by any means. I know that God has promised me many things, and you, Husband, are not one of those things. This is the reason why I will treasure you all the more if you do enter into my life.

So far, in my 25 years, I've been perpetually single. This has been a blessing and a frustration. I fully believe God has protected my very tender heart from being broken time and time again. You see, I love freely and I love hard. Because of this, I am prone to falling in love (or infatuation at the very least) easily. The Lord my …

Public Private Letters, Part 5: Dear Colby.

Dear Colby,

I know I said my last letter to you would be the one in your casket, but I can't help it. Today would have been your 21st birthday and I've been thinking about you a lot over the past few months--especially today. I've thought about more and more how short your life was. Beautiful, but short. You seemed like you were only just beginning. We were growing closer over the months before you died. I feel as though so much has been stolen from me. But, then again, life IS a gift, one that we are not guaranteed, so how could that gift have been stolen if it wasn't ours yet? It was a gift I absolutely took for granted. I would like to say I'll never do that again, but that would be foolish. I take life for granted daily, even after your death.

Can I be really honest? Some days I do not want to be alive--to be breathing and hurting. I'm not suicidal, I promise. I would NEVER hurt myself. But some days I wish for an escape. I wish for pain-free. I long for He…

Public Private Letters, Part 4: Dear Merritt.

Dear Merritt,

Have I told you lately that I'm proud of you? Well, I am. I'm proud of how strong you are, how hard you work, how much you care about others, and so much more! Even though you're physically shorter than me, I always have and always will look up to you!

I was sad to learn you couldn't make it to my birthday celebration this weekend, but I hope all goes well with beginning the process of planning/writing your thesis! I have realized more and more that graduate school is not for me (at least not right now), and I have more and more respect for those who are able to succeed and do well in graduate school. You're one of those, of course! And you're going on to get your doctorate! I couldn't be more proud.

Merritt, you're one of those friends who can tell me the truth. You're a true friend because you are capable of being really honest with me about things that truly matter, and you handle that truth with grace. I trust you with knowing abou…

Public Private Letters, Part 3: Dear Brooke.

Dear Brooke,

It's your birthday! Hooray! You're 25 on the 25th. Happy Golden Birthday! I wanted to wish you a happy birthday by writing you this public private letter today.

Well, as you know, my birthday is in 5 days--just 5 days after you were born, so was I! Hooray for being born! But really, it's a blessing to be alive. The older I get, the more I realize this. I mean, living hasn't always been easy--for you or for me. There's been three times when my world sort of got turned upside down, and I know you've had a few of those as well. For me, the first was when I had cancer at age 10. The second time was the dark days of my hospitalization in 2013 and the following months of recover. The third time was when my cousin Colby and then my Aunt Jan died. You've stuck by my side through all of these and more. Through thick and thin, we've been pals. Since 4th grade we've been buddies. But more than buddies or pals, our friendship has grown into somethi…