The Sound of Silence

This post will feel like whiplash after Friday’s was so focused on things I can’t do and progress I can’t make.

Maybe it’s the bipolar talking.

But I’ve been reading and reflecting a lot, and I’m starting to feel motivated to do the things that I know will make me well. Recognizing that I might be dealing with OCD has shifted my thinking. Maybe I’ve just been approaching my mental health from the wrong angle.

This has given me more purpose towards taking active and targeted steps to improve my brain health. Most importantly, it’s helping me believe that it’s possible for me to be well.

The book I’m reading is The End of Mental Illness by Daniel Amen. I’m fascinated by it and inspired by it, and I will probably write more about it later.

But that’s not the main topic of this post, except to say that it’s renewed my focus on being thankful- just in time for the holiday.

So this post is a post of gratitude for my mother-in-law, who visited and walked with me this weekend.

I have so much love for her.

I think I may have overwhelmed her with it a little bit when I first became part of her family.

She is someone who is very comfortable with silence, and I never used to be.

I was so eager to connect with her that I constantly peppered her with questions about her job, her family members, Matt’s childhood.

Whether or not she was overwhelmed, she always welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like her own daughter.

I remember in my first year of teaching, when I was mentally and emotionally distraught, she sent me a “paint by numbers” set, because she knew I liked them. I took the phone from Matt to thank her for it.

“Now, this isn’t meant to be one more thing on your to-do list to stress you out,” she said. “There is no guilt if you don’t want to paint. It’s just there if it helps you relax, and if it doesn’t then then don’t use it.”

She already knew me well. I never used it, but it did its job of making me feel loved.

After my psychosis, when I was once again coloring to ease my mind, she bought me the fanciest sets of markers, paint pens, and paper.

I could say I haven’t used them much, but if I’m focusing on growth and positivity I’ll say that I used them more than the first set.

Going to her house always felt like coming home. Sitting at her kitchen counter or in front of her wood stove had a healing and rejuvenating effect that I looked forward to, especially on holidays.

One of the first times I remember being truly happy after my psychosis was when we finally made it out of our house for a trip up to see her.

We knew how careful she’d been about COVID, so we felt safe going. More urgently, we knew I needed to get away.

It had been over three months since my psychosis, and I hadn’t been able to spend any significant time out of the house where all of the chaos took place. This had taken a toll on me that I didn’t fully recognize until we got away from it and were safely under her roof.

We sat on her back porch and ate dinner. I couldn’t have a glass of wine, and I couldn’t think of anything to say, but there was a tipsy joy in the comfort of silence with her.

Getting back home after that trip felt like I had pressed a reset button. Things weren’t perfect, but I was reminded that I was still me. I still had homes out there in the rest of the world, and I could still go to them. And they were full of people that loved me.

It was an important reminder for when things got hard again.

“Steph’s been having a rough time,” Matt told her when she came to visit us this summer.

“I had a feeling,” she said.

“What? How?” We wondered.

“I wasn’t seeing enough pictures of Bailey on social media,” she said, and I had to laugh.

As a connoisseur of silence, she knew when it was good and when it was a problem.

For the end of this post, I’ve been searching for the perfect anecdote about how much Matt’s mom loves Bailey or how much Bailey loves her or how much I love them both.

But I’m realizing that the best way to honor Matt’s mom is to stop here.

To embrace the silence.

To let love fill it.

Thanks for reading,


54 miles down, 46 miles to go