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This is a story about mental health and self-care written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular stories on my site since February 2015. The purpose of her writing is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m hoping her stories will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the stories I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the stories she’s shared on the site, check out Tiffany’s Story. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

My weight has fluctuated over the years. People have said that I’ve gone from too skinny years ago, to a healthy size now. The truth is that I’m not completely happy with my current weight and the way I feel. I need to start eating better, exercising more and improving my overall well being. I feel strongly that being in good physical health helps with one’s mental health!

When I first lived in Los Angeles in my early to mid 20s, I was told that I was at an unhealthy weight. I never weighed myself during those times, but I’m guessing I weighed around 115-120? I ate Clif bars for almost every meal and spent the day drinking Gatorade. I was getting the necessary calories I needed to survive the day. I lived in Venice Beach, so I’d walk up and down the beach and around different zip codes all day, including Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Culver City. I may have looked alright, but my mental health was slipping down during that stage in my life. I was not feeling good mentally at all. I remember a couple times I went to parties with models. A few of the girls attempted to get me to fly to other countries to do modeling. I was in no place mentally to take that venture. I had opportunities, but I figured out a way to destroy them all. As you can tell in the pictures from Los Angeles, I did not have a sparkle in my eyes like I sometimes do. I was also sucking in my cheeks because I did not feel skinny enough. During the “skinny” time in my life, I would look in the mirror and see an overweight girl. I saw myself as a girl who was not good enough. I was a girl who needed to lose more weight so I was like the other girls. Yes, I compared myself to them.

There were times when I chose to live on the streets. I could not sleep, so why not be outside? I was slipping. I had prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications, but I was not taking them the prescribed way. I was medicating my body in unhealthy ways. Trips back and forth from Minnesota to Los Angeles ultimately landed me back in Minnesota with the proper self-care I needed and was looking for. I was not treating my body as a temple. I was not only polluting my body but also my soul.

As I previously stated, my body weight has fluctuated over the years. When I was in high school, a few of my friends had eating disorders. Those girls were some of the most beautiful girls in my high school class. But shhh, it’s not okay to be sick. That’s what our society tells us. To be honest with you, I often took on some of the responsibility for their disorders. I did not want to be one of the girls whom they were comparing themselves to. I felt an extreme guilt during high school because I did not know how to help my friends. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I was struggling during that time too. I have compared myself to the “skinny” girls. When people share about how much weight they have lost, it’s hard not to compare. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized why. I, along with them, was trying to look NOT SICK in a SICK world. Everyone is hurting in some way. We are all at different stages of acceptance, but we have to accept who we are today.

When I started to be more concerned with my mental health, I was on a cocktail of different medications. Many of those medications caused bloating and weight gain. A couple years ago, I was at my ideal weight of around 132 pounds. The fact is that I was not mentally stable at that time. My dad was getting sicker and sicker every day, and I was grieving over a boyfriend who was dealing with his own issues. I felt pretty good physically, but I was torn apart inside.

Currently, I look in the mirror and see a body that I do not want to accept. I see a woman who needs to feel better about her current size. Lately, I’ve weighed between 140-145. I work in the child care area at a health club and receive a free membership for the work I do. My dream is to start working out a few times a week and to definitely watch what I am eating. To burn off calories takes time and effort.

My prayer is to be happy with my overall physical and mental health. I’ll let you know when I am! I have found that no matter what your size, confidence is everything. We need to find a way to be comfortable with our body size, no matter what that may be. A lot of this may sound trivial in comparison to more important problems that we face in life. It is, but we have to feel good about ourselves in order to communicate properly with the people we surround ourselves with. You’ve got to like and love yourself before you can like and love others! For me, I have to take care of myself in order to be a better parent to my two kids.



Most of high school I weighed 126 pounds.

Most of college I weighed 132 pounds.

When we got married in June 1998, I was down to a new low of 126 pounds. (I lost 5 pounds the week of the wedding due to crazy busyness. That was, no doubt, a one-week low.)

After college, but before babies, I weighed a steady 141 pounds.

After my first two babies, I hovered around 146 pounds.

After my sister’s first baby, I weighed 151 pounds.

After four months of intense personal training right before I got pregnant with our third baby, I was super happy with a new low of 143 pounds. (But let me tell you, that was really hard work and I was watching my diet like a mad woman.)

After our third baby, I got back down to 146 pounds, but it wasn’t easy. With very regular exercise, I still waffled between 146 and 151 pounds.

By the time I stopped working as a speech-language pathologist, I was at a new steady high of 151 pounds with all the stress.

And after two months of poor eating, poor sleep, and tremendous stress due to my husband’s eye cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery at home, I was up to an all-time non-pregnancy high of 158 pounds.

I felt like junk, to be honest. The pounds were piling on for no reason. I was beginning to get worried, in fact. My body was taking on a life of its own. It seemed like all I had to do was step on the scale and another pound would be there. Permanently. Like it wasn’t going away anytime soon. Like I had no control over how this body of mine was reacting to life. Like I was barely fitting into my pants.

One day in early March, when I was at that all-time high of 158 pounds, I stopped by the personal training desk and spoke with a trainer. I’d been working out 3x/week like normal, but I was convinced that all the stress and life changes had literally blown my metabolism to shreds, that my body needed a major re-boot. I’d heard good things about some new metabolic, hormone, stress & vitality tests my gym had available, and wanted to see how much they cost. I had a conversation with the nicest, most helpful and kind personal trainer in the world. Heck, after we chatted a while, he even brought me up for a meeting with the gym’s nutritionist so we could look closer at those tests I was hoping to run. Needless to say, the tests were out of my financial league. No personal income to speak of and many doctor bills left me realizing I’d have to walk through this weight problem on my own.

The personal trainer offered me a Sunday afternoon friends and family class for $10 a session, but between family events, my son’s basketball tournaments and my daughter’s volleyball practice and tournaments, I haven’t been able to attend. He also said I’d fit nicely in a group personal training session he runs weekly, but to be honest, I don’t have an extra $50 a week to put into group personal training right now.

Since we met briefly in early March, that personal trainer has been the nicest, most supportive guy in the gym. When he sees me he says hi, and asks how I’m doing. He stopped me on the track the other day to let me know the tests are on sale this month. And he reminded me again with all sincerity, “let me know if I can help you with anything.” A couple weeks ago, I shared that I’m down 4 pounds since I talked to him in early March. “Keep up the good work,” he congratulated.

I’m down to 154 pounds. Still an all-time non-pregnancy high. The pounds are still coming off my body like molasses. But hey, I’m 4 pounds lower than that all-time high of 158.


The past four weeks, I’ve begun lifting weights more than I have for several years. When I spoke with the personal trainer, he reminded me I should be lifting at least a couple times a week. And I promptly reminded him that I hate weight training, that I avoid it like the plague. But I knew I had to change something. I knew I had to kick this body into a whole new realm. I knew I had to do something different. So as much as I hate weights, I began integrating lifting into my workout program again. I’ve actually been lifting 3x/week for the past month.

But yesterday when I was lifting, I realized something. I remembered WHY I hate lifting. I remembered why I STOPPED lifting during my sister’s first pregnancy in 2010.

Because life feels weighty enough in itself.

Too often, I bear the weight of the world on my shoulders. I sense deeply. I feel deeply. I live far beneath the surface in my heart. Lifting extra weight adds burden to my already worn and torn body and soul.

I knew that was true back in late 2010 when my personal trainer was pushing me beyond my limits with weights, when I crumbled in tears and she couldn’t understand why. I knew that was true yesterday when the weight of the world just felt too heavy to lift, when I couldn’t even curl two 10-pound dumbbells three sets of 12 reps.

Yes, it’s all becoming crystal clear. This is an unintended consequence of slowing my life to a new pace, an unintended consequence of shifting directions. It’s all crashing down on me, or should I say, it’s all piling up on me?

I’ve spent a lifetime bearing the weight of the world. I’ve been bearing the unrealistically high expectations I set for myself. I’ve been bearing the unrealistically high expectations I set for others. I’ve been bearing the unrealistically high expectations others have for me. I’ve been bearing the unrealistically high expectation of doing what the world thinks I should do, and being who the world thinks I should be. I’ve been bearing the unrealistically high expectation of thinking I can help, fix, restore, renew and remove everyone’s burdens.

Yes, it’s becoming crystal clear. A lifetime of mental, emotional and spiritual weight bearing has taken a toll on my physical well being. I haven’t known my boundaries. I haven’t honored any boundaries.

158 was an all-time high.

Now I’m at an all-time (lower) high of 154.

What weight do you carry?

What weight do you carry physically?

What weight do you carry mentally, emotionally, spiritually?

Just because we can feel the weight of the world, doesn’t mean we need to bear the weight of the world.

How’s that for a revelation?

Let’s lift the weights we’re meant to lift, and loosen our grip on the weights we’re meant to set free. You and me, friend. Just you and me.









Yesterday was a little ridiculous.

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. Left the house for work at 6:55 a.m. Conducted FIVE therapy home visits back to back, and returned home by 2:15 p.m. For the next 2 hours 45 minutes, I did laundry, cleaned up kids’ messes, unloaded a grocery bag full of one kid’s school stuff, did some finances, went to the park with three kids, made dinner for said three kids, cleaned it all up, and got the oldest ready for an out of town baseball game. At 5:00 p.m. daddy arrived home early. He kept the toddler at home, and I left with the two oldest for a half-hour drive to the baseball game. A train stopped dead in the tracks forced us to reroute, which caused us to be 18 minutes late for pre-game warmup. The 5-inning game started at 6:30 p.m., running long and late, not ending until 8:30 p.m. It was a great game for my son and we won, so of course, everybody planned to stop at Dairy Queen on the way home. One chicken tender basket, two small blizzards and a $13.84 receipt later, we took our seat to eat. Dear son refused to be the first to leave this time, so he escaped outside where all the boys were sitting. His two best friends were the first to leave. I finally convinced him to go after his second friend left, but not before he made a “dirty dinner” of ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper which caused desired outcome of friends laughing – and grabbed a ketchup packet and squished it to splatter all over his white baseball pants. Yay. We got home at 10:00 p.m. I informed the kids they needed to go to bed as quickly as they could, took a shower and crashed on the couch by 10:26 p.m. Forced myself to get quiet and in the Word for a few minutes, looking up passages on freedom. Began drafting a blog post, but literally fell asleep writing. Lugged my body up to bed by 11:30 a.m. Exhausted when I woke to toddler yelling “mommy mommy mommy” at 6:00 a.m. this morning.

Frazzled yet?

In need of a lifeline?

I sure was.

While all my days aren’t as rigorous as yesterday, they all have some variety of busyness, craziness, or chaos. I’m in a season of busy, as I’m sure many of you are.

This season of busy requires us to be focused, disciplined and patient to not only survive, but thrive through it. First of all, we need knowledge and awareness of what makes us tick, keeps us sane, grounded and functioning properly. Second, we need discipline to implement the things that make us tick, keep us sane, grounded and functioning properly. It’s up to us to fight for those lifelines, those things that keep us healthy.

It’s taken me near 38 years to determine, very decisively, my lifelines.


In an ideal world, I’d have an opportunity to attend a worship service, Christian concert, or Christian speaking engagement every day. Worship and community centered on Christ centers me, grounds me, helps me remember there is greater purpose to this life. Unfortunately, attending one of those events on a daily basis isn’t possible. So I rely on other things to fill the gaps – prayer, listening to Christian music in the car and on my iPhone, reading scripture, engaging with a Christian community on Twitter, reading blogs written by Christians, and listening to faith talk radio in between speech therapy visits.


I’ve been exercising faithfully two to four times per week for more than eight years now. While I certainly exercised prior to that, I never did as faithfully as I have these eight years. What I’ve learned from eight years of exercising is this – I’m in desperate need of it. I exercise primarily for mental health purposes. Exercising makes me feel better 100% of the time. When I go 3-5 days, or worst case 7-9 days without exercising? I feel like crap. Yep. Just being honest. When I exercise, I feel free, empowered, strong and inspired to live better. And yes, maintaining my weight and losing a couple pounds here and there are side benefits.


Music is something I didn’t really realize I needed regularly in my life until this past year. I grew up in a musical family. My grandma was a master pianist. She taught lessons and played at church. She died when I was 10, but I’d give just about anything to have a moment to sit and listen to her play now. My parents met in college band, my dad was a band director, I was in choir and musicals in high school, and played flute through college. Music has always been a part of who I am. It’s not so much that I just need music. I need music that feeds my soul. At this point in my life, the best way for me to access music that feeds my soul is in the car on my way to work out and in-between speech therapy visits, or on my iPod when I’m working out. I’m an eclectic, preferences ranging from Eminem to Sara Groves, Elton John to Amy Grant – and everything else in-between.


I’ve been a faithful writer since early junior high. Writing is the way I process life. Writing is the way I make sense of the world around me. Writing is the way I get clarity. Yep, I’m the person that writes a sentence when one word would suffice, several paragraphs when one paragraph would suffice. When I started blogging two years ago, I realized something important. When I start a day writing, the whole day is much better than if I don’t. When I end a day writing, I feel much more peace than if I don’t. My brain automatically generates language around my life experiences. I draft sentences and paragraphs in my mind all day. If I don’t get them out, they remain stuck in my head, of use to nobody but me and my ruminating mind. It’s better if I grant myself freedom to get it all out. Focusing on whatever topic speaks to me most in the moment helps me remain true to myself, regardless of others’ response.

So why have I shared these lifelines with you today?

Because identifying what makes me tick, keeps me sane, grounded, and functioning properly has been crucial to my health and wellness as an individual.

Here’s the key…any day when I fight to fit in ALL FOUR lifelines is a much better day than when I miss one, some or all of them.

Today, while the oldest two were at basketball camp, I got in a workout first thing. I turned my music up loud. Writing this blog post was a welcomed, self-imposed activity during my daughter’s afternoon nap. And tonight? Some quiet time with God before bed. Today will be a much better day than yesterday because I’m intentionally including all four lifelines in my day.

I’m not sure if you’re the kind of person who thinks like me, but if you haven’t done so already, may I suggest thinking about your lifelines?

What do you need to function properly on a daily basis? Perhaps your lifelines aren’t activities or habits you need to keep, but people you need to engage in order to maintain wellness. I don’t know what it is that fuels your soul, what it is that keeps you going day by day, but whatever it is, find it.

And when you discover those lifelines?

Fight for them. Fight to fit them in your day.

Your life depends on it.


After untangling the cord, I place one white earbud in each ear. A first generation iPod Nano loaded with thousands of songs goes in my right hand, an iPhone in my left. I push playlist, then Amy’s workout, searching for the song that matches my mood. Sometimes the day dictates secular, sometimes worship, sometimes a mix of both.

I turn up the music, loud. I can’t hear anything else. The world as I know it is drowned out. I thank God and know this will be good. It’s always good. Because somehow, that drowning out of the world through exercise and music is a filter. It helps me feel and see life more clearly than ever before.

I begin. I let my body take the lead. I walk and run as I feel moved. I’ll worry about the numbers again someday, but for now, I go with the flow. Most days, my body knows what it needs. Just minutes in, I can tell it’s going to be a mostly walking day or a mostly running day. And so goes for the music – secular, worship, or mix. Intuitively, I know what I need.

But whether I’m walking or running, listening to secular music, worship music, or both, one thing remains true. My desire is to see as God sees. I open my eyes, prepare my heart, and listen.

A man with a cane makes laps. He walks with a limp, but he’s as steady and as strong as he can be. As I pass not once, but twice, three times and more, I envision a day when he’ll throw his cane and run free.

It’s a school day and mom has two kids in tow. She teaches them down dogs, they exercise their hamstrings with big balls and shoot hoops on the court. She has no qualms that she’s the only mom with school-aged kids at the gym on a Monday at 9:30 a.m. She’s in her element, that’s clear. Living your dream, living your purpose always feels right, even when it’s out of the ordinary.

Sarah, an employee with disabilities, makes her way down the stairs. An elderly woman stops Sarah half way down and helps her tie her shoes.

Most days, a petite woman with a blonde pony tail spends her time with a personal trainer. She’s strong, she’s a fighter, an encourager to those around her. Her body language says – I’m fighting, I refuse to give up, I will give it my all.

And then there’s the elderly couple. They’re bent over together as they walk the track. It’s phenomenal, a once in a lifetime testimony I wish everyone could see. They’re not just bent over, they’re bent over to the same degree, walking side by side at the same pace. If you look at them from across the track it’s as if they’re one. Others can’t help but notice. Some engage, others smile quietly to themselves as the elderly couple passes. I’m dying to know their story, but I’ve been afraid to ask.

The ladies training below look like robots. They cross the gym the same way every time. One leg up, one leg down, all the way across and back again. Their personalities are completely lost in the robotic movement. They don’t fight, they don’t resist, they just keep moving on.

The man with Down Syndrome stacks the steps. Slowly, but surely, puts each one in place. They’re squared, stacked at the same height. It’s a quiet area. He does his work without complaining, at his own pace. It’s a hidden beauty I can’t help but wonder if anyone sees too.

That woman on the treadmill, she gets me every time. She runs like the wind, throws punches in the air, fire is deep in her bones. She’s strong, fierce. I’m convinced she’s overcome, convinced there’s worship music blasting loud in her earbuds.

The old guys, they’re wearing jeans, leather belts and boat shoes. They walk in groups, at their own pace. They don’t give a damn about how fast or slow anyone else is going. They do it their way. There’s community with those guys. They’ve seen it all, done it all. They’ve paid their dues. They show up day after day, and I love them for it.

He looks over as I pass, attempts to engage in conversation with questions and comments. “You work at the grocery store? You look just like a cashier there.” “It’s been a week and a half since hunting and nobody’s shot themselves.” I remove my earbuds with just enough time to listen and respond – “That’s a good thing, right?!” Some might call him a little creepy. I think he’s quirky, sweet, well intentioned.

Moms wait in hoards for the prime time group fitness classes. They’re dressed in Lululemon, Athleta, Under Armour. There’s pressure to be thin, really thin – fit, really fit – your best, perfect. I spent five years in those rooms. I understand the pressure, I know how it feels. I know the need, the drive, the longing, the striving to be good, better, best, perfect. It’s too much for me these days. I can’t keep up. I take my own path now, but I get it. Believe me, I get it.

She’s thin, sickly thin. Her hair is sparse, thin too. Skin covers her bones, there’s nothing between. The thickest part of her upper thigh is barely bigger than my arm. I wonder what she’s battled, the demons she’s faced, the wars she’s waged. She’s not just thin, she’s hollowed out.

ONE obese man frequents the treadmill on the far side of the gym where the man with Down Syndrome stacks steps. It’s quiet there. Perhaps he thinks nobody will notice him. One day he’s absent. I notice an obese woman hop on the elliptical just two down from the treadmill the obese man uses. Goose bumps run up and down my body. She’s the only obese woman I’ve seen at the gym, he’s the only obese man I’ve seen at the gym. Both choose the same safe hiding place. Slow and steady, they won’t give up. This battle is theirs and they’re here to fight.

I pass her on the track. She’s short and she’s hiding. Her hands are in her pocket and her head is down, way down. Her plight, unknown, but she’s here to walk through it, work through it.

As I sit to stretch, a little girl comes running around the track wild and free. Mom follows close behind. Both with big smiles.

The baby says “hi” and “five” as we prepare to leave. She knows, our buddy’s up ahead. He’s there, every day, washing windows. He has Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t keep him from making a difference. She grabs my hand, wants me to give high five first. All three of us smile at each other, I tell her “It’s your turn, give your buddy high five!” She inches slowly but surely to her buddy, gives him high five. He smiles and waves bye. And as we walk away, I turn to look back and I’m blessed with the greatest gift of all, a gift that can’t be replicated or done justice with mere words. There he is, kneeling down behind the window. He’s looking out at my baby, beaming, bursting full of joy, watching her walk away. She brought him joy as much as he brought us joy.

Yes, thank you God, is the only appropriate response.

It’s all in His hands.

All this, just a glimpse of the way God sees. His love language is music. It’s loud and His song is always right – for you. He knows your heart, He knows your tribulations and your triumphs, and He loves all of us the same. He’s with you every step of the way. His heart is beating fast – for me, for you, for them.


When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.  Proverbs 4:12

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another Meet Me At This Moment for Five Minute Friday post! I spend the last hour of Thursday chatting it up with a group of authentic and inspiring Five Minute Friday bloggers on Twitter (#fmfparty). One minute past midnight EST Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker gives us a single word prompt and we all write a blog post centered around that word. We write for five minutes, and five minutes only! In the words of Lisa, this is “unscripted. unedited. real.” You meet me at this moment in time…my thoughts and opinions, my joys and sorrows, my dilemmas and dreams. And I receive one of the greatest gifts ever…a regular outlet for processing and expressing my thoughts without constantly editing myself. This is my life, my perspective, unfiltered.

The word of the week is AFTER.



My natural inclination is to walk rather than run. I walk fast, I walk hard, I walk long.

But since October, I’ve been running, more than ever. And I get it. I understand why a runner runs.

For when I run, I’m running from something, through something, for something, to something. There’s power and there’s healing in running. One foot in front of the next, hard against the road, I’m propelled by something greater. Nothing can stop me. And after a run like that, all I want is to do it again.

That dream of mine, to run a marathon? It’s no longer so far fetched. Because now I understand the power of the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1


  1. Jodi Beckwith says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog for FMF? Don’t you just love these prompts and the after results? Kudos to you for hard work. I’ve never been able to run much due to asthma, but, I can understand that drive to do so.

  2. Ahh I lost the dream of ever running a marathon this week… stupid knee surgery. But I love that I can visit blogs like yours and run one in my heart with you. Keep us updated won’t you. Visiting from 5MF

  3. Dolly Lee says:

    Wow, good for you, Amy 🙂 You’ve been on mind…praying you are well 🙂

  4. Marybeth Thielke Blog says:

    *cheering you on* Great post!

  5. Leslie Crain says:

    Preparation reaps a good after, I like it.

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