Mental Health America 2015 Annual Conference: Intervention and Innovation (Part II)

A friend gave me a copy of Glennon Doyle Melton’s book “Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life” in the fall of 2013 and I read it in just a couple of days. The book spoke to me in many ways and let’s be honest, the way Glennon writes is exactly how she talks and you can’t help but read or listen more!

It was actually because of Glennon’s name on the agenda that I became interested in trying to find a way to attend the MHA conference. I got out my notebook and listened, smiled and laughed during Glennon’s closing keynote. I took diligent notes writing down quote after quote of good nuggets:

  • “The truth will set you free….but scare the bajezus out of your family.”
  • “Rock bottom is the beginning of an honest life.”
  • “Rock bottom keeps us from ‘just good enough.'”
  • “The valley is where the river runs.”
  • “Inside the pain are the lessons we need.”
  • “Instead of what makes us happy, think of what makes us uncomfortable.”
  • “Using our pain as our fuel.”
  • “What breaks your heart is who you are meant to serve.”

Glennon shares her early days of sobriety, marriage and parenting and does not beat around the bush with how hard it ALL can. I appreciate her candidness, real and raw approach to those topics. I have such a hard time with only hearing about the “smelling the roses” moments in life but talk and tell me about those moments that really rocked you to the core, how you persevered and rose up to the challenge and succeeded in your fight. Glennon’s approach to talking about life is what I hope to do with my “Own It Daily” blog, which is why actually hearing (and later meeting) Glennon was very encouraging to me in these early stages of the blog. I know we shouldn’t idolize anyone but I may have said “I want to be like Glennon when I grow up” to a few people since reading her book.

Her analogy about the valley and the mountains and how everyone thinks they want to be at the top of the mountain where everything is fine and dandy but the truth is that the river only runs through the valley and that’s where the growth occurs. “Yes!” I said in my head, “This is truth!” Her words about parenting and how as parents we need to think about the 3 words that describe the adult we are trying to raise and then work on those elements as we parent. As Glennon, who has 3 children of her own – coincidentally who years ago went to the same elementary school as my daughter currently does now, I felt led to go up and ask a question about parenting (ya know…in front of everyone in the conference – but I knew my question would hit home to others in the audience). This was my question:

“I have bipolar disorder and I am the mother of three young children. Statistics show that it is possible that at least one of our children will struggle with mental illness at some point in their life. What do you share or teach your children about mental illness?”

Glennon’s answer was full of encouragement and reiterating that I need to talk to my children about my struggles (at their level depending on their age) and not sweep it under the rug. I’m sure she would have said “Annie, just OWN IT” if she had known about my new blog and its title! She told a short story about how her daughter was physically sick with some sort of cold and really didn’t look all that great when they were in the grocery store. A fellow customer commented on how her daughter didn’t look well and that her daughter chimed up saying something to the effect of “now you know, there are some people with mental illness who are sick but they don’t look sick, just like all of my mommy’s friends.” Glennon said she shuddered for a second but immediately stepped back and realized that’s exactly what she wants to teach her daughter. Why shy a way from the truth right? Teaching our children to be “truth tellers” is what we as parents need to foster.

There were so many great nuggets I soaked in throughout her 1 and half hour sit down and be real conversation so I’ll share one more. When it comes to things that make us happy, Glennon explained, we gravitate to that because its easy but in reality its the things that make us most uncomfortable that we should direct our energy towards to grow. She asked the group “what are you envious of? It is THAT thing that you are supposed to do. Or what breaks your heart? It is THOSE that you are meant to serve.” WOW – this was deep yet so simple. THIS IS WHY I could listen to Glennon talk all day long!

And then…..I got to meet her in person. I knew that two “crazy momma’s” couldn’t take a regular posed perfect looking picture, so this is titled “Being Goofy with Glennon:”

Being goofy with Glennon at the MHA Conference 2015

Being goofy with Glennon at the MHA Conference 2015

The 2015 MHA Conference was such a great opportunity for me to not only network with like minded professionals but I was encouraged and reaffirmed that what I am doing in sharing my story, is going to be of help to others. I can not be silent about something like my bipolar disorder. I need to “own it daily” and help others feel empowered to do the same in their own lives.

Thank you to Angie Goff for connecting me with Erin Wallace and for allowing me this great opportunity. I am very grateful! I had a great time at the conference and look forward to a lot more involvement with MHA in the near future!