Daring Greatly

“Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.” Daring Greatly, Brené Brown

I have been terrified to write this post.  When a wound is so close there are not a lot of pretty words surrounding it.  I’ve decided to share with you what’s truly going on in my world because there are probably, …definitely, some struggling with the same thing or something similar.

I’ve realized one of the most powerful “tools” of this mental illness is the overwhelming isolation it creates.  I feel so alone and like no one else can understand what I’m going through.  But I know this is simply not the case.

“Hi!  My name is Ellen Slaton and I have Bipolar Disorder.”  

Phew.  So glad we got that out of the way.  I feel like I could beat around the bush on this blogaroo for a while, but to be honest that’s exhausting.  So again, why the online announcement when so many of my closest friends don’t know?

I suck at being vulnerable.

I’m even reading books about it (see above referenced quote).  I’ve learned that vulnerability and shame go hand and hand.  Brown says in the same book, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Reading and processing through Daring Greatly I’ve realized that I am not alone!  Everyone struggles with shame on some level.  I’ve been choked by guilt and my mental illness and am allowing them to keep me from beautiful friendships.  I’m taking the first step that I personally need to and am bringing my “big bad secret” into the light.

© www.andrewslatonphoto.com
© http://www.andrewslatonphoto.com

For me, so much embarrassment and shame surround the fact that I have this label on my forehead.  I reveal it to only a select few and even then, I feel they treat me differently (when they probably aren’t).

I know many might even be surprised by the announcement thinking that I seem “normal.”  I’m not going to reveal a list of super fun antidotes to prove that my brain is a cray cray wonderland, I’ll just say that when I’m having a hard time, you wont see me.  I isolate, I cancel coffees, lunch dates and hang out times.

This is just my first step.  I want to stop canceling with my friends when I’m struggling.  Last week when I was falling apart, for the first time ever, I called a friend.  I let her see me in all my mess, I let her hear how my speech was all over the place.  I knew that I did not sound good, I was embarrassed.  And do you know what?  She did not disown me as a friend.  She did not hang up on me, she prayed for me right then and there and simply loved me.

I wish I could say “Done!! I will forever run to my sweet friend and not feel ashamed!!”  But I know that it is a practice :)

As a side note, I would NOT be here today without a few things: my ever faithful God, my husband, my family, & my yoga practice.  Just sayin’.  These things saved me.

I have lots of nitty gritty details that will probably spill out over the years on this online journal.  Again, I share to hopefully help others.  I would love your comments.

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28 thoughts on “Daring Greatly

  1. You’re an incredible writer and I look forward to reading more of your stuff:) Your honesty is refreshing

  2. Hey Ellen. I know this must have taken a ton of courage and probably one of the more difficult things you’ve had to do.

    1. Sorry. I had more to say and my phone did some weird stuff…

      Anyhow. I know this is a huge step in your life. I know it’s been like 53 years since we’ve really hung out. Lol. But still, reading this made me feel proud of you. I know the vulnerability must have been terrifying. But towards the end of your entry, it’s really obvious that there has been a big weight taken off your shoulders. Proud of you buddy. No doubt that one day you’ll look back at this moment with a huge smile. Keep in touch!!

      1. :) Thank you so much JJ!! You are so right! It was a huge weight lifted off for sure. I realized that I have been letting this “secret” hold me down and I just had to let it go. Thank you for your support!! :)

  3. I have found that vulnerability in ourselves begets vulnerability in others. Thanks for the honesty and be prepared for others around you to drop their masks as well. Have fun in Scotland!

  4. Elle Slaton- you are my hero! You never cease to amaze me. Your courage, strength and vulnerability are so inspiring. I am so proud and honored to call you my friend. I love you to pieces!!

  5. Elle Slaton- you are my hero! Your courage, strength, and vulnerability never cease to amaze me. I so proud and honored to call you my friend. I love you!!

    1. Lovie love. You have been such a safe place for me these past few years. I can’t thank you enough for your support and constant encouragement. SO thankful for YOU!!

  6. Hi Elle! Your honesty and positive attitude about having bipolar disorder is inspiring. I’ve always thought of you as such a joyful person. But I understand that that is not always the face you are given in which to approach the world. It must feel overwhelming to begin to share all sides of yourself with your friends. Your true friends will understand because they love you with all the different parts of you. I love you! I’m so excited to spend some time with you in July!

    A great song: Looking Out by Brandi Carlile

  7. Ellen- I continue to be amazed by you. You have such a beautiful, tender soul and are perfect just the way G-d created you.

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story. You definitely have opened the door to help others. So courageous of you. My heart is always open to you.

  8. Well Ellen, I know it may seem rather strange to say: “Welcome to the tribe” but I’m strange so I’ll say it anyways. Welcome. It’s a crazy ride for sure — devastating, painful, lonesome, and ridiculous. You’re not alone though. The tribe is here. Your loved ones are there. And admitting it is half of the battle. You have solid support. You will get through this. When you feel like you won’t (and you’ll definitely feel it) then I hope this space can bring you clarify, calm, and “ah-ha” moments to help you think you can all over again.

    1. Hi Zoe. Yes! What a ride. I had no idea the community I was tapping in to when I Dared Greatly on the blog. I’m looking forward to reading your posts and learning from your experiences.

  9. Proud of you and encouraged. The past few years for me have been all about coming out of denial about the great burden of shame I’ve carried my entire life. What a wonderful gift to find out that bringing it into the light truly brings freedom, healing and soothing restoration. Freedom to love and be loved and to believe the gospel…..that we have great dignity and value that only a loving God, Creator of the Universe can give! Much love to you, my friend!

  10. Despite all of the advances our society has made in accepting others with different sexual orientations or races other than our own, there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness. But mental illness, like any other physical illness, should not be shameful or embarrassing. But it is. It is does not define you. As a culture, our hearts bleed for those with cancer or heart failure and we spend so much time and effort on finding cures and raising awareness for these physical illnesses. But when people are dealing with a mental illness, like yours, we just label them as crazy and refuse to acknowledge the fact that you (and so many others) didn’t choose this. The only way to bring awareness about bipolar disorder to the masses is to start, as you did, by telling people. I imagine that taking this first step was no easy task and probably one that has weighed on you for a long time. But your strength and courage are more than admirable, they’re inspiring. You are absolutely perfect, just the way you are. Thank you for being brave enough to open up and for simply being you. This does not define you. If anything, I think it makes you that much more interesting. You go girl!

  11. Ellen — you are forever amazing. Thank you for sharing. Your tremendous spirit, love of God, open heart and gentle kindness are always an inspiration to those around you.

  12. Ellen- I wish I could hug you right now! This is so brave and your courage will light the way for others out of the dark. Love you.

  13. Dear Ellen,
    There you faced your big fear. I am truly blessed and encouraged by your honesty.
    I think you are really in store for a lot of love!!
    Love,
    Chris

  14. It’s pretty interesting when we “come out”, isn’t it? I’ve struggled on and off (mostly on) with depression and anxiety for over 15 years. (holy moly, that’s a big number…) But for the vast majority of that time, I did so in silence. That ugly shame voice made me unable to confess my secret to anyone. The more that I’ve “come out”, the more stability I’ve found, when really, I always thought it would be the other way around. I always figured that the more people I let in, the more eyes I would have on me, judging my every move. To my utter shock and awe, that hasn’t been the case. My circle is still small, I still don’t trust people with my heart, but some amount of selectivity is important..

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this Katelin. Yes, yes and yes. Opening up to others is terrifying but I have been surprised at the rewards from it. Makes me feel silly about all the overwhelming fear I had from it. But I DO agree with you, selectivity is important. I don’t need to spill my guts to every soul that comes along :)

  15. It’s pretty interesting when we “come out”, isn’t it? I’ve struggled on and off (mostly on) with depression and anxiety for over 15 years. (holy moly, that’s a big number…) But for the vast majority of that time, I did so in silence. That ugly shame voice made me unable to confess my secret to anyone. The more that I’ve “come out”, the more stability I’ve found, when really, I always thought it would be the other way around. I always figured that the more people I let in, the more eyes I would have on me, judging my every move. To my utter shock and awe, that hasn’t been the case. My circle is still small, I still don’t trust people with my heart, but some amount of selectivity is important..

  16. You are so wonderfully brave. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and “came out” of the BP closet on my blog. Feel free to check it out. You are not in this alone, thanks for exposing the shame and being real.

    1. Thank you so much Maelyn for commenting. I find it is a daily process to not be ashamed of “my stuff.” Thank you for your encouragement. I’ll definitely check out your blog! Looking forward to it.

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