Off The Deep End

“Off the Deep End” is the name of my blog. It’s in the web address, And when I first began blogging a few years ago, I gave it that name thinking I would write some blog posts that were “deeper” and some that were not quite as deep, and some that were light and fluffy, and it would be a cute little catchy title, and I could use a little widget on the right-hand side of my blog tagging the posts “deep” or “light and fluffy” and wouldn’t that be fun. I never imagined that “Off the Deep End” would be a place that I would actually visit. But that’s what happened.
I have bipolar disorder. I share that with some trepidation, as I have historically been fairly guarded with that information. It’s not like I have a Jen Hatmaker-sized blog following – my blog is primarily read by my close friends and family, most of whom already know about my diagnosis. But it still causes me some fear to put that information out there. Maybe because I’m a mental health professional, or maybe because there is still so much misinformation out in the world about this illness. But I have been convicted lately about the fact that I work hard in my everyday life to decrease stigma around mental illness, but I am reluctant to be open about my own. So I am sharing a bit of my story in the hopes that maybe it will be helpful to someone who is struggling, and to give testimony to the redemptive power of a God who has loved me throughout the darkest of my days.
As Kay Redfield Jamison says in her book An Unquiet Mind, “People go mad in idiosyncratic ways.” For me, the descent into The Dark Place was slow at first. I have had bipolar disorder since early adulthood, but by the grace of God, my illness has always been well-controlled with medication, once I finally embraced the fact that I needed to take it regularly. There were some bumpy roads in my 20s, but I have enjoyed a great deal of stability throughout my 30s and early 40s, as medication worked well for me and I journeyed through life giving little thought to my illness on a day-to-day basis. Until the fall of 2014, when the wheels came off.
Ironically, in October of 2014, I had just received an award given by Texans Caring for Texans for the Behavioral Health Employee of the Year. It was a great, great honor, and the awards ceremony was a wonderful day for my family and me. And it’s the last memory I have of The Before. In late October of 2014, I began to notice that things were changing in my mind. People and things around me began to seem far away, and it seemed as if there were a glass wall separating me from the people around me. I became unable to concentrate, lost motivation for the things I usually enjoy, and began a descent into a deep, dark, depression. And this depression progressed into a mixed episode, which occurs when someone experiences depressive symptoms along with manic symptoms – for me, these included racing thoughts, insomnia, agitation, and a feeling like my brain was literally on fire. And I stayed in this dark and terrifying place for the better part of 2 years.
My doctor tried multiple medications, and I had periods over the past 2 years when I would emerge from The Dark Place and spend days or even weeks in The Normal. I would return to work, come up for air, post happy things on Facebook. But each time, The Dark Place returned. And my journeys into The Normal became more rare, until they stopped altogether. Finally, this summer, I was hospitalized for 8 days on a psychiatric unit. It is incredibly humbling for a mental health professional to be on a psychiatric unit, yet not be the one with the keys to the door. Not be the one leaving when 5:00 rolls around. Instead, to be the one sitting at a table struggling to put a 100-piece puzzle together because my thoughts are so scattered. Yet it was here, on this inpatient unit 6 hours away from home, that my God began to heal me. That He began to work in a mighty way. I confess that my faith had wavered over the past 2 years, and that at times I had felt abandoned by God and questioned not only His love for me, but His very existence. But it was here, at Rock Bottom, that my God showed up. And I left the hospital not cured, not “well” yet, but knowing that I was loved by God and that healing was coming, if I could just hold on.
Over the past several months, I have slowly emerged from The Dark Place and re-entered the world. My doctor and I found a medication cocktail that is working, and I am slowing returning to my life. And I am finding that it is possible to not only re-enter the world of The Normal, but to possibly even enter the world of The Better. Because I have a renewed joy in my life, an appreciation for even the tiny things that make up the ins and outs of my days – a new gratitude that permeates every day and every relationship and every moment. I take nothing for granted, because I have seen and tasted The Dark and am now able to appreciate The Light in a way that I never did before.
As I think back over the last 2 years, as dark as they were, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude first of all to my God. My Jesus redeems. He redeems it all – every moment of hopelessness, every moment of fear – he is redeeming and making meaning of it day by day. And I am able to see how through it all, He provided for me in a most amazing way. When I was unable to see any light, when I was unable to sense His presence, He loved me through His people. My people. I will never be able to express enough my gratitude to the friends and family with whom He has blessed me. Through this dark 2 years, my friends and family have loved me relentlessly. They have faithfully walked every single step of this road with me. They never gave up, never wavered, never faltered. I remember fearing that they would get tired, and I’m sure they did. But they never left me. They sat with me. Cried with me. Picked me up and took me to get smoothies, when I couldn’t eat much of anything else. Cleaned my house. Most importantly, they prayed for me. Prayed without ceasing. My precious friend Mindy gave me a bracelet this past spring that says, “And Jesus saw their faith.” It refers to the story in the Bible where a man who is unable to walk is lowered down through the roof on a mat to see Jesus. He is lowered down by his friends, each friend carrying a corner of his mat. And this is what my friends did for me. Day after day, they brought me before the throne of God. Carried my mat. I fully believe that when my own faith faltered, healing began to come to me through the faith of my friends. Jesus saw THEIR faith, even when my own was wavering. And I am forever eternally grateful.
So now, as I find myself on what I hope is the other side of this journey, I have a new sense of purpose. A calling to love others as well as I have been loved. A calling to bring glory to The One who never left me and who brought healing to me and who brought me out of The Dark. A desire to squeeze every ounce of joy that I can out of every moment of my life. And finally, a hope that permeates my very being and makes its way down deep into my heart and soul.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised IS FAITHFUL.” ~Hebrews 10:23


I had decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to do a blog post this week, because I haven’t blogged in a long time and I miss doing it. I figured I would do a post about Thanksgiving, and gratitude, and all that I have to be thankful for. That was my plan, and I’m sure that post would have been just precious (at least to my relatives and closest friends). And don’t get me wrong – I am so, so grateful for so many things. But I’m just not feeling that particular post tonight. I have some other things on my heart.

Along with everyone else in America, I have watched over the past few days as events have transpired throughout our country. I have read articles, and blog posts from much wiser and more legit bloggers than myself, and social media commentary, and comments. So many comments. Comments I wish I could un-see, and comments I am thankful I had the opportunity to read. And I am not here to add to the sea of  commentary on the events of this week – but what I find myself deeply aware of tonight is that one young man is dead, one officer’s life will never be the same, two families are devastated, and people are hurting.

Many of my black friends are hurting. Whether this incident began as a racial incident or not, it has become one, and it has opened up wounds among so many. And I am grieved over this. And I am thankful that I am grieved over this, because I fear what will have become of me if the day comes when the pain of so many people does not touch my heart.

Many of my law enforcement friends and their spouses are hurting. Backlash against law enforcement has been significant, and I know many law enforcement officers who conduct their jobs day in and day out with integrity. They are at greater risk any time there is widespread unrest, and they and their families are also heavy on my heart.

So I find myself thinking, “What can I do?” As a white person who has never known racism. As a citizen who does not have to place my life at risk each day when I go to work. As an imperfect Christ follower who wants desperately to see peace and to see an end to the hurting of so many, but often feels powerless to effect healing on a larger scale. And as I prayed through this question, these are the ideas that came to mind regarding steps that I can take in my own small corner of the world:

1) Listen. Listen deeply. Listen with humility and compassion to people whose life experiences differ from my own. Don’t rush to judgment. Acknowledge the pain of others when they hurt. Be mindful that I will never fully understand the path that my black friends (and Hispanic friends, and Asian friends, and Middle Eastern friends) have walked, because I haven’t walked it. Acknowledge that racism is real, and that it still exists in many forms today, as much as I would like to close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t.

2) Pray. Pray for healing in our country. Pray for my black brothers and sisters, whose world is still not the same as mine, as much as I would like for it to be. Pray for my white brothers and sisters, that we would pursue racial reconciliation. Pray that we would be all be brave and kind as we talk about the hard issues, and that we would listen to each other and seek to really hear, rather than just be heard. Pray for our law enforcement officers, that they would be safe, that they would have discernment in the decisions their job requires them to make, that they would be protected from harm.

3) Celebrate. Celebrate the beauty in diversity. I heard someone say recently that they “don’t see color.” And I think what was meant by this comment was a well-intentioned sentiment of, “I don’t discriminate based on race/ethnicity.” But my thought after hearing this statement was, “How sad would it be if none of us saw color? If we didn’t see the beauty and the variety in our skin tones? In our hair textures? In our accents? In our cultures?” How monochromatic would things be if everyone looked like me? Talked like me? Thought like me about everything? Had only my particular set of experiences?

For example, my friend Xiomara recently allowed her young son to place colored drink stir sticks in her hair (what she refers to as her “Teenie Weenie Afro” or “TWA.”)


When I tried the same trick with my thin, stringy, white-girl hair, this is the result I got:


Not at all the same. In this lifetime, I will never be able to pull off a TWA. But I can admire Xio’s.

We are created to celebrate each other. And to do this, we have to really SEE each other.

3). Act. I have heard a couple of people say in the past few days that true peace will never exist this side of heaven. And I understand what they are saying. But we still need to work for it. We need to work for it with everything we have. As Christ followers, we are commanded to do this. Biblically, it is not optional. Christ is the source of peace, He is the embodiment of peace, and as His followers, we are commanded to represent Him in such a way that people see love, and truth, and peace when they look at us. This side of heaven, we will do this imperfectly. But we have to keep trying. To heal with our words, rather than wound. To extend grace. To love. To hold out Christ as the ultimate healer, the ultimate peace-giver.

As I have been thinking throughout the day about Thanksgiving, I thought back to what I remember learning in school about the origin of the holiday. It just seemed relevant, and important. And I did some googling. Turns out, the first Thanksgiving on record was celebrated between the European settlers (or Pilgrims) and the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans. The first Thanksgiving was not only a celebration of a successful harvest, but was also a celebration of racial reconciliation between these two peoples. And this is what is on my heart, and in my prayers, as this Thanksgiving rolls around.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I am reminded that many of the blessings we hold most dear are born out of struggle. And my hope is that we will pursue peace, be willing to wrestle with the hard issues, and be able to celebrate progress as we take steps towards the fulfillment of Romans 12:18, where God tells us:

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

~Romans 12:18

Best wishes for a peace-filled and peace-bringing Thanksgiving.

I drove to work this past Monday morning, as many of us did, feeling deeply saddened, heartbroken, and still reeling from the events of the previous weekend.  As someone who works in the mental health field, I see a great deal of suffering on a daily basis, but it has somehow seemed magnified over the past few days – with every individual with whom I came into contact, there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of sadness and struggle.  Addiction.  Psychiatric illness.  Physical illness.  Domestic abuse.   I spoke last night to an amazing group of parents and educators in a local community, who recently experienced a tragic event at their school.  We talked about substance abuse, and fear, and warning signs, and feelings of powerlessness.

There is enough heaviness out there to drown us if we let it.  And I confess that I can sometimes start to go under a little bit when I take my eyes off of the One who is my source of hope.  I needed to be reminded this week that our God is a redeeming God, a God of hope, a God of PRESENCE, who, as my friend Mark said in his Sunday message, CHOSE to be present in the midst of our mess.  He chose to do so 2000 years ago, and still chooses to do so today.  And my soul can rest in the knowledge that God is with me – is with us – even in, and especially in, the things we don’t understand.

Mark posed a question during his message that reached in to the deepest part of my soul:  Will you move out of your fear towards Him?

And the answer, for me, is a resounding YES.  YES, I will take a step out of my fear and towards my Savior, knowing that my hope is not in the things of this world.  YES, I will pursue the hope of Christ like my life depends on it, knowing that only by embracing and sharing this hope can I truly impact the world around me. YES, I will choose to be present with God, this Christmas season and beyond – to be still, and to rest in the knowledge that He is ever present with me.  YES, I will choose to be present with the people in my life – to be FULLY present, and to fight against the distractions that can steal my attention.  And finally, YES, I will choose to be obedient to God’s commandment of “Do not be afraid,” choosing to trust in God’s faithfulness and to be mindful of the many, many ways I have experienced His faithfulness in my life.

Immanuel.  God with us.

Be Present