Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Human Potential & Transformation

I was surprised to learn how much I had identified with these prisoners and their struggle to cope with their emotions:

These people have been ignored and are desperate — hungry — for someone to help them to find a better way to cope... How do they experience those emotions? They are literally experiencing sensations on the body and the old habitual pattern is to react to those sensations. But in [the meditation technique] Vipassana, you learn just to observe those sensations because that's what they really are. And not react to them.

All of this reminds me of my own journey that I still struggle with today. I don't know what it means to be touched by this story — perhaps that we are all trying to find our humanity and ultimate freedom within ourselves.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It Takes All of Us to Bring About Change

The problem with making documentary films that use magic bullet scenarios, where you offer a simple solution to a complex problem, is that they lull an audience into a fals sense of complacency. You turn it off and you figure, OK well somebody at least figured out how to solve that problem. We shoot for the exact reverse: you're supposed to be disturbed by our films, you're supposed to turn our films off and realize that this is a complex societal issue for which there is no on simple answer. It takes all of us to bring about change — individuals, political leaders, etc. That's why we still make documentary films because we believe that you can effect some change. - Susan & Alan Raymond on The Art of Documentary Filmmaking.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Courage of Forgiveness

Peace comes when you talk to the guy you most hate. And that’s where the courage of a leader comes, because when you sit down with your enemy, you as a leader must already have very considerable confidence from your own constituency.

Forgiveness is saying, "Whatever you may have done, however awful, it does not define you completely. Even if you committed murder, even the most gruesome murder, it doesn’t then turn you into a demon. You still have the capacity to become a saint." Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning. - Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Forgiveness

Halfway around the globe another Anglican bishop, John Rucyahana, describes a reconciliation project that seems radical and unreal: Rwanda's ex-prisoners building homes for those who not only survived the genocide, but for the family members of those they killed. Laura Waters Hinson powerfully unfolds this story and expands our understanding of what makes us incredibly and oftentimes painfully connected to each other. With Rwanda's courage to transcend its transgressions we find ourselves challenging our own capacity to forgive. As We Forgive triumphantly expresses the highest form of leadership in action.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Go For Your Vision

If you want to see him as someone struggling as filmmakers would struggle for their own identity, for their own voice, for their own vision, for their own mission that they had to fulfill in their life, then yes, you are right and that's what they should do as filmmakers. Go for your vision. Don't be intimidated.

- Werner Herzog at the Sundance Film Festival on Timothy Treadwell.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Living Service

Be like a ladder, not like a leader. If you become a ladder, then everyone develops themselves.

Jayesh Patel, founder of the Indian NGO Manav Sadhna, shows us how the Gandhian principles inspiring the organization are put into practice in the vast slums of Ahmedabad. There are enough good ideas, says Jayesh; what is needed to make real change is the commitment to one another through humble service. Ultimately, it is heartfelt compassion and sincere spirituality that motivates effective service to humanity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Awakening Possibility in Other People

The conductor doesn't make a sound. He depends on his power on the ability to make other people powerful. And that changed everything for me. I realized my job was to awaken
possibility in other people. - Benjamin Zander

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Willingness to Find Meaning in Something Greater than Ourselves

"As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

"America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

- President Barack H. Obama

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

At the End of the Day

In my 37 years of service I may have gone home tired or frustrated with how a decision came out, but I never went home and asked myself if what I was working on was worthwhile. - Ronald E. Neumann on Foreign Service.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

My Dear Friends, Family and Colleagues,

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, mostly for my journey towards recovery and resiliency from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). As many of you know, recovery is a long and sometimes difficult process with many steps forward and back. I am beginning to realize how much I need to celebrate the little victories as much as the milestones. Without your help, support and effort -- both directly and indirectly -- I could not have gone this far and I am incredibly thankful for you.

During this time of thanks and giving, I am wondering if I can call on you again to help not only me, but many others like me. Courage to Lead is a program I am developing to help inspire today's would-be Changemakers. The project started out as an account of my own road to leadership, but I now realized what a benefit it would be to incorporate other perspectives as well. It would be an honor if you would be one the first to share your own story of courage -- perhaps a moment in your life that helped define who you are today. I wholeheartedly believe that it is through story-telling that we are able connect and inspire others to continue on their journey towards change.

Please comment with your own story -- it could be as long or short as you wish and in any format (or if you are in the NYC area we can do a podcast) -- perhaps it would ignite others to share their stories as well. That in and of itself would be a wonderful thing!

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving,


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life Experiences that Define You [Part II]

I realized I created a post asking others to define their life experiences but forgot to share my own. My story begins when I decided to sign up for a 545 mile bike ride, perhaps to find myself. Little did I know three months before the big ride I'd be partially hospitalized at a psych hospital. The ride gave new meaning to my journey. I wrote the following passage a week or so after the ride.

On the last night before our final final ride we filed on to the Santa Barbara beach, creating a 2500 candle light vigil. We stood there in a circle, silent. Men were crying, others were consoling. Jason, a comedian i walked with to the beach that night said to me in a whisper, "You know what? you're the enlightened one. We... I have to be here. Of the eleven friends that are here with me tonight, nine of them are HIV positive. My best friend died two years ago and I rode with his mom the next year. I'm still angry that we continue to do this every year. It should be over by now. But here you are coming all the way from New York not knowing anyone on this chose to be here when you didn't have to. You should be proud of what you've accomplished."

One by one, candles were walked to the shore and extinguished with those little waves that roll to your toes. Jason told me it represents the life of someone living with HIV: slowly you see them walk away from you, and then their light is gone. He said to me, "Now I have to go home a deal with how fucking angry i am." I told him that maybe he can let go of his anger as he distinguishes the flame. He tried it. He came back from the shore and gave me a hug. We went our separate ways. Afterwards i stood there on the beach by myself and looked up and out onto the stars and cried. Whatever was in me, I just cried it out and gave it up to my God.

That is the experience I remember but rarely share. I thought of Shaun* that night. I thought of him during the ride, when the hills were tough. I asked him for courage and I hoped I was doing him right by this ride. And when i was alone on the bumpy road and the meds weren't working I imagined a hug from a loved one. That's what it took to get me through. When everything was depleted, all I needed was a hug. Everyone in my life somehow became a part of that ride. Whether I was happy, exhausted, in awe or trying to get by, I felt the most alive I've felt in a very very long time.

I read in a magazine article interviewing Archbishop Desmond Tutu that a person is a person through other persons. I have always searched and looked far and near for my meaning, my way, my voice. But now I feel i have actually covered some distance and learned something. Tutu says it again, "I need you to be all of who you are in order for me to be all that I am." That is what I've come away with on this 545 mile ride.

*Shaun was a student at my alma mater. He was born with AIDS. Although I didn't attend school during the same time as he, my mentor/teacher, Fr. Albert, worked closely with him. Both of his parents died from AIDS when he was little so his grandmother took care of him. Then she past away from cancer his junior year. Fr. Albert helped him find a foster home and brought him from school to home or to the hospital when he was too weak. A few weeks after he graduated, Shaun past away. Fr. Albert gave the mass at his funeral. I didn't know Shaun personally, but Fr. Albert helped me get through so much over the years I wanted to give something back to him. Riding in his honor was my gesture.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Okay to Believe

Some people listen to themselves rather than what other people say. These people don't come around very often. But when they do, they remind us that once you set out on a path -- even though critics may doubt you -- it's okay to believe that there is no can't, won't or impossible. They remind us that it's okay to believe. Impossible is nothing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Night I Met Bill Drayton

"Mr. Drayton, my name is Amanda, it's an honor to meet you."
"Amanda, please call me Bill."
"Bill, your ideas has given me the courage to be a changemaker and take a chance on what I believe in."
He looks at my badge. "RethinkBPD?"
"It's a cause for mental illness."
"BPD, like Borderline Personality Disorder?"
"Yes! I was only diagnosed two years ago. I spent half of my life suffering. If only I knew earlier. That's what I hope to do with my project... I just don't know if I have enough in me to take it on. Is there any advice you can share with me?"
"Well, listen, BPD is a very serious illness and you have a lot to offer in terms of change. This is definitely something that's needed... you have a voice."
"How do I do it without any kind of funding? That's my biggest problem."
"You just do it. You don't need much. You start small, like so many others at Ashoka. There's a definite need out there. You'll hear the response."

Thank you Mr. Drayton, for all that you've done. You've made a big impact on my life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Good Fight.

In the boxing world, they often quote St. Paul's letter to Timothy, just before he was about to leave them and move on to his next mission:
I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept my faith in tact.
Urges are like waves in the ocean; they come and go, some more big than others. Each time a wave passes I write a couple of these words down. My therapist would call it a distraction technique, but mostly these words allow me to see myself as a fighter with a choice to carry on. When it feels like there is nothing to fight for nor a point to the whole struggle, I become an active participant in my own life by choosing to endure through the pain. Dealing with urges are exhausting and often an uphill battle, but words like fortitude, perseverance and resilience soon become part of your make up. Somehow you have gained the courage to continue on, feeling more confident that you'll find yourself again at the end, weary from the fight, but faith in tact.

Special shout out to Trinity Boxing Club for helping me find the fight in me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

At a Crossroad

The more I listen to personal stories of strife, frustration and helplessness the more urgent I feel something must be done. For the past year of listening I have also been writing my ideas, discussing possibilities and asking for feedback about the needs of people with Borderline Personality Disorder. What can I do? How do I help? What will create the most impact? Today I stand at a crossroads: make this project a reality or lose momentum and let it fall by the waste side. I don't think I can give up on something that has not only changed my life but also saved it. So today I am making the jump from abstract to concrete; from ideals to pragmatism; from fear of failing to courage in spite of fear. This blog will not only be a sounding board for all the information that has been percolating inside my brain in the past year but also a practical, step by step approach to creating a business plan. I hope you will become a part of this journey too.

I will be using a book by Andrew Wolk & Kelley Kreitz called Business Planning for Enduring Social Impact as a template. The parent company, RootCause is a nonprofit organization that advances enduring solutions to social and economic problems by supporting social innovators and educating social impact investors.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Ultimate Goal

is in changing a lot of things, upsetting local patterns, weakening existing structures, weakening the idea that things are the way they are. It’s an invitation for people to step up and do things differently. That first change touches a series of people who weren’t doing this before. They’re not passive anymore. They’re full citizens, change makers.” – Bill Drayton

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My Little Stint at Yale...

UPDATE: You can watch the video of my speech here.

Last Friday I had the privilege to be asked to tell my story in front of 325 people at Yale University. Last time i spoke in front of a group, besides my wedding, was in my junior year of high school!... 13 years later I stood in front of a room filled with MDs, PhDs, therapists, parents and those who live with BPD. It was a bit surreal to stand before such a great group of people.

How strange for me to say — after all these years of not understanding why — that perhaps I made a bit of difference, if just for that very moment. It's exciting and humbling, scary and validating, all rolled in one. I do not know where this will take me or what it all means. For now, I'm just thankful that I had the opportunity to share my story.

And the speech? Well, it's rather lengthy as I had to speak for 10 minutes, but if you read it, I'd love to hear what you think.

Like many of you here, I am trying to contribute to this new movement, this shift, this incredible ground-swelling of progress here, within the BPD community. The question of growth really is a question of leadership. Not in the way of politicians or CEOs or directors of organizations — yes — those are all very important.

But today I am talking to you the individual: the practitioner, the doctor, the therapist, the loved one, the parent, the teacher, the friend, even you who live with the same disorder as i do. You see, without you, i would have never made much of my life. I wouldn't have gotten through much of this strife without your compassionate ear or words of hope. My goodness, though, how much I have asked of you in these past thirteen years; you who have encouraged, listened, even cried with me. and I am incredibly indebted to you all.

But still, year after year, week after week, day after day, it would come back. it would come back so hard. with every crisis my courage to die increased. with every doubt my need to match the intensifying pain grew. I needed something harder, a drink, a few drinks, physical pain, wounds that would not show but would take the edge off...

I could not tell you who I was at those times; it changed every day, every hour, every minute it changed. I could not tell you the number of times I'd find myself in a bathroom stall crying this silent wail, holding a belt in my hand. I just wanted out. I just wanted out... and over and over and over again, I had to ask for your help. i'd demand from you this meaning to continue on. I'd demand that you give me something to hold on to. just to stay with me until I fall asleep. just to tell me every thing's going to be okay.

You see, I was not the token patient that comes up in research papers, studies or books; but those lurking around just below our very own radar. I am that person. People did not see my distress, perhaps because I kept it so well under wraps for the most part... But Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder... even the idea that I had been abused as a child... these were the things impressed upon me, year after year, over and over again... none of them made sense.

Finally you told me I needed help, help you couldn't give or wasn't able to give. help no once a day anti-depressant or once a week therapy session could give. It was the most difficult thing you told me. the most difficult piece of reality i had to swallow. And on Valentine's Day... only a year ago, I checked myself into a hospital.

i was scared, no doubt. it was the one place that I thought would swallow me whole... but slowly, i came around. there were other people there like me, and the social workers and doctors were all working together. Day by day i became more able to identify my emotions, understand my triggers, even work through my urges. It was here that i finally let my guard down and let people in and be strengthen by them.

about a month and a half later, my social worker at the program, she sat me down and opened this rather large, biblical looking book. Thumbing through the pages she began to read these sentences aloud, asking me if I identified with any of them. One by one, she listed each of the criteria and by the ninth bullet point I thought she was reading my autobiography.

"Amanda," she said, "have you ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder?"

Never in those thirteen years of treatment have I heard those three letters, BPD, put together in front of me.

but BPD... how much it made sense. It was like a breath of fresh air. I learned to think pro-actively, pragmatically, concretely; to stay in the here and now instead of the past, to assess, to learn, to build, to track, to prioritize. Finally it all started to make sense... And even with all the skills and concepts and progress I made in only one year, i learned something even more profound than all of that.

You see, the ironic thing is, the enlightening thing is, is that being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder did not give me the sense of doom i hear that had once prevailed. the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder has instead saved my life forever. The crises, the doubt, the intense emotions — they are all still there. But what differentiates me now from those past thirteen years is that just by the very label of BPD I can choose to step outside of myself. It does not consume me. It is bearable. It is temporary — these feelings... I am not my feelings and I am not crazy. I can never be as hopeless, as desperate, as alone...

I am not alone anymore.

That's what has been so crucial for me to remember and what I want to impress upon you today: that by virtue of diagnosis — whether we know it or not — we become a part of this community. and this community holds hope. However i have found my way up here today, speaking with you, we as individuals — and as a part of this interconnected movement of research, treatment, of grass root programs and support groups, especially for those who have this disorder — we must realize our potential to become enlightened leaders. We have the opportunity to challenge both the bold and subtle biases, prevailing stigma and misunderstandings. We have the opportunity to bring our disorder out of the fringes and into the center of discussion. We have the opportunity to find solidarity in each other and not be ashamed of who we are and what we are diagnosed with.

We become the very hope we are looking for.

So today I stand before you, after a lifetime of not understanding why I needed to continue to exist, to say that my life — just like yours — matters more now than ever before. There are very few opportunities to create sustaining impact and drive change in the world. We must become enlightened leaders of this new movement, this shift, this incredible ground-swelling of progress here, within the BPD community.

There's this great quote that I've always kept close to me: a person is a person through other persons. For the past 29 years, I have searched for my way, my voice, and questioned my existence and value as a human being. Becoming a part of this invaluable and necessary community has allowed me to understand this journey I have been on and, more importantly, to discover answers to my long sought after questions. I would like to leave with one last quote, I need you to be all of who you are in order for me to be all that I am. Finally, I realize how far I have come.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Powerful Weapon

If you organize and dynamize space—whether it’s on a paper page or a web page (or any other medium)—what you see on it, place on it, and what you believe should be one and the same thing. But if you have the ability to render your beliefs and passions visually, you have a powerful weapon in your hands. If you don’t use it, you are wasting your life. - Tony Hendra

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Yes We Can

To me the video is a reminder about the importance of inspiration. Leaders—and you are now, or will someday be, a leader—have a great many roles to play and responsibilities to fulfill. But great leaders inspire, pure and simple. There are many ways to inspire people (your group, your company, your country). Great communication skills are not the only way. Nonetheless, the ability to paint pictures with your words—moving people and inspiring them with your ideas and your vision—can take you far in this world. If you fail to inspire, they will fail to listen. Never underestimate the power you have to inspire.
Via Presentation Zen.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can. It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality. Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world.

Yes, we can.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

There is nothing...

with which every man (or woman) is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming. - Søren Kierkegaard

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cheerleading yourself late at night when you don't think you can do it.

i can do something about it. i don't know why it has never come across that something could be done. i don't know why before it would just play in my head and i would become a victim. finally i can empower myself and not be afraid of my emotions. finally i can have some say in what plays out in my head. i, for the longest time, froze... voices would yell at me over and over, daring me to take that next step. and if i ever did, i thought i would just fall apart; chaos. and i'd never return.

in other words, i was afraid i'd go crazy.

it's not the best thing to admit. but i think that is what prevents me from taking charge of my life. that if i'd do anything to the fullest, i might wander too far off and not find myself again.

i don't know where that rationale came from. perhaps when i wrote long papers or drew for six hours straight i began to lose ground. when i gave it my all, something chemically changed in my brain and it was easy for me to get lost in my head.

My therapist asked me what i want. what i want to do with my life i guess. i don't want to be afraid. all my life, the worry thoughts are there. it's what prevents me from giving it my all. i want to dedicate myself to something and find the fuel to fan the flames. to continue to work on something that i don't have to constantly ask someone to believe in me in order to do it. i want to believe in myself, in what i am made of. to know that all i need is already within me if i'd just dare to use it. i wonder how many people go about their lives never realizing what they're made of. how do i believe in myself. all this stuff i've accomplished and gone through and i still can't say i'm good enough.

i want to follow through with my life and stop selling myself short.

i always need people to help me believe in myself. to validate me. to say, you're doing a good job in a way that was true and not fake because that's what's you're supposed to do. i want to ride on that energy that others can give just by being in their presence, inspiring me to run (or cycle) that extra mile. like that person in the subway car who told me "you can step on my shoes anytime, if you're reading a book like that." keep up the good work. do it, do it. have fun with it. have a ball. laugh at yourself and still keep on going. take the bull by the horns be corny be the damn o captain my captain. be that person who inspires others and act the way you want to act. be a ham. be serious. be funny. don't care what others think. because you know you're a good person and no one should take that away from you. you're a good person, god, i can't even say that without cringing, like really? i'm a good person? how the heck are you supposed to do anything if you don't fundamentally think you're good?

and good? well that equals worthy. how do you know you're worthy to do the higher calling. how do you know you're worthy to be heard. you're worthy to speak and listen and engage in people you think are at a different plane that yourself. dammit, take charge! this is what life is about! ask people with authority!

yes you'll make mistakes, everybody does. learn from them, don't cry about them. pick yourself up and try again. do you need someone to tell you that? do you need someone to coach you to try again? do you need someone to tell you your worthy of trying to make another mistake again until you get it right? no one ever gets it right. you just do what you can do and hope it makes sense to other people. not in your lifetime. but in the end. ultimately you have lived your life to the fullest.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Exercise: Life Experiences that Define You

Reflect on what has actually influenced your behaviors and attitudes. Identify those specific life experiences that you remember as significant, and then identify the value associated with that experience. If done with honesty, this kind of exercise will lead you to the basis for your own leadership, the fundamentals of a defining message, perhaps even to the institution within which you want to lead. - Terry Pearch, Leading Out Loud.

What are the life experiences that define you?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Why on Earth

would you settle for creating something mediocre that does little more than make money, when you can create something outstanding that makes a lasting contribution as well? - Jim Collins & Jerry Porras, author of Built to Last

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

About a Dog

Sometimes we just have to pause, catch our breath and remember the important things in life. I've been struggling, trying to find the right words to explain what has made me believe that I can be a part of the generation that change things. I've looked everywhere for inspiration and suggestions but sometimes everyday, ordinary things happen and you just say, f____ it. Life's too short to search high and low for the right words.

And so, my dog died today. We knew we had to let him go as it would be selfish of us to have him suffer any longer. Sunday night as I said my goodbyes and kissed him on his forehead I whispered to him, hey, you come and meet me when I get up there, okay? You promise? That night I crowned him to be my very own Virgil as I sail along into the next world. It comforted me to think I'd see that bugger again. But somehow those few words also meant I would have to live out my life. Not that many people think of things like that — even if your very own dog dies — but I do. It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't see anything but the very end.

My outlook was bleak. Each day was an internal struggle to keep myself alive. The pain was so great I was no longer safe. I began to drink heavily. Even if I was sober, I would be afraid to drive. I stopped wearing belts and pens, pencils or kitchen utensils became potential weapons. I was in such utter turmoil I began telling my dear friend all my passwords to my finances and personal matters. She had the wisdom (or fear) to tell me I needed help, help more than my usual the once-a-week therapy sessions and daily antidepressant could do. And at that, I checked myself into the hospital.

A month and a half later my social worker took out what looked like the bible for shrinks: the DMS-IV. She began to read these sentences aloud, asking me if I identified with any of them. One by one, she read each criteria and by the ninth bullet point I thought she was reading my autobiography. Amanda, she said, have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?

From twelve years of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and meds I have never heard those three letters, BPD, put together in front of me. Yet it has only been eight months since I left that hospital (the one place I thought would swallow me whole) and my life has completely turned around. The program has helped bridge the gap of what once was to what I've always thought was within me. They have given me the tools, confidence and understanding i could have not otherwise known. Without the fellow patients, social workers and doctors working together i wouldn't be able to identify my emotions, understand my triggers and work through my urges. It is here that I listened and was listened to with compassion, kindness and good will. It is here that i let my guard down and let people in and be strengthen by them. It has truly been a complete and total experience and i will always take it with me. So much so, I've begun to help others in the same predicament I had found myself in. I still struggle to get through the day, some more difficult than others, but it can never be as worse than the all those years before my diagnosis.

If it weren't for my crisis (and for my dear friend), I don't believe I would have received the proper treatment. The hardest part of living with BPD is getting the diagnosis. Many end up misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, over-medicated and even worse, receiving treatment that exacerbates the very symptoms it is trying to manage. This is why I've been wanting to be an agent of change. There is so much that needs to be done in this fairly new field. We ourselves are the only ones who can make that first step. I know now that I am not alone in rebuilding my life, learning new coping skills and yes, just plain and simply, living.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

As if 422 Comments Ain't Good Enough

Like many other bloggers out there, I do a daily, if not hourly check at my favorite sites... one often visited is Rebecca Thorman's Modite. Not only is her writing insightful, witty and inspiring but she can also take the credit for my desire to be a part of these new generation of leaders. Modite also has a myriad of links to other noteworthy sites. Today I decided to try and tackle one new link a day. I said to myself, "Hmm. dooce... funky name. That seems like a good place to start." Who would of thought that the day I checked out her site more than 422 others did the same. 422. As if having four hundred-plus readers weren't enough, all the comments to Heather Armstrong began or ended with two words: thank you.

And because she couldn't say it on the phone, Heather gave the rest of the world courage to speak about something so many, including myself, are ingrainedly ashamed of. With one post she opened up a conversation that 422 others agree so desperately needs to be talked about: Mental Illness. Dooce, thank you for giving me the courage to speak.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here's to the Crazy Ones

One of my favorite ads...

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in a square hole, the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who'll do it. - TBWA\Chiat\Day

The Changemakers

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The New Heroes

As I've been reading these stories, ideas and experiences from the next generation I cannot help but feel the beginnings of greatness unfolding before my very eyes. There is something so raw yet very wise about it. Sure, blogs do that to you; gets you into the very soul of another being sometimes... but it's not just talk, it's not just rant and it sure isn't just words.

For the most part they start out like any conversation but then, like wildfire, ideas begin to spread. That vision you thought no one else would care about actually becomes something more. And your you know, what ifs become sure, why nots and maybe at that very moment, a tiny idea in the back of your brain turn into those very first steps of something real, something remarkable, something close to greatness... perhaps, yes... goodness.

It can start there. And with one sweeping motion, a movement unlike any other begins. We are the new heroes. And we've only just begun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences. - Susan B. Anthony

Monday, December 3, 2007

Chutes too Narrow

It's only been a week into my year-long project and I've already found myself in a bit of a quandary: should I make my personal cause public? It seems like an obvious answer (of course!), albeit insignificant (my handful of loyal readers, you rock) but sometimes the things most close to heart are those most difficult to open up about. And so I look to a fellow journeyer, Rebecca Thorman, to remind me simply — yet powerfully — of what it means to lead:

...being a leader means being unfailingly honest and transparent. Stay true to who you are. The rest will follow... The longer you wait to take action, the higher the edge will seem from the ground. You must take the jump, and trust the parachute will open eventually.

While you're waiting for that chute to open one of the first things you worry about is being out there, all alone, falling flat on your face with no one there to help you pick up the pieces. But I've noticed that the more you do put yourself out there, the more you tell your story and the more personal it becomes, the less those worry-thoughts appear and the more courage you gain. Somehow, you find meaning in this crazy journey you've started on and even on the bad days you can hear yourself saying, sure, I can do this. I can definitely do this...

So thanks Rebecca, for your words of encouragement. Here's to taking that first step, that first jump. Here's to what we're doing right now — sharing our ideals, our passion, our accomplishments and mistakes — just laying it all out there. For what we we do now can only create the change and much needed momentum for the journey on. Who doesn't need that.


When you commit yourself to making a difference in the world and share your passion and idealism with others, 'guardian angels' will emerge to help you.
- City Year cofounder Alan Khazei as quoted in Forces for Good

Friday, November 30, 2007

Vision & Pragmatism

Social entrepreneurs often seem to be possessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of their field. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical implementation of their vision above all else.

- Leslie Crutchfield & Heather McLeod Grant from Forces for Good

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Speaking of Dead Poet's Society, it's been 12 years since I've last stepped into my eleventh grade English class. I don't remember much of Beowulf, Chaucer or Shakespeare but I can still recite a Keats poem. My English teacher adored this poet so much he traveled to Italy just to get lost searching through the entire cemetery for this man's tombstone. If my teacher had to die a tragic death, he hoped it would be just like Percy Bysshe Shelley's: body washed upon the shore with an open volume of Keats's poetry, stuck in his pocket. It were these stories that I remembered most... stories that came alive with personality, character and humor -- all in the form of a narrative which was illuminating, engaging, and memorable.

I can't deny the emotional impact my English teacher had on not only my love for Romantic Era Poetry but for life itself. All his lessons engaged us. We never questioned it; he had heart. He, to our junior year class, embodied leadership in action. All of us agreed we'd do anything for him. I realize now you can only inherit that kind of passion through a true and real connection, something stories have the keen ability to do. And with that, true leaders use storytelling to cut right to the heart of the matter... so much more than any textbook can do.

Do not go where the path may lead,

go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

O Captain! my Captain! rise up..

I just told my partner in crime about my year-long plan. Well, she's not really my partner, just someone I look up to since she has already incorporated as a NPO in Florida. I bounce off all my lofty and practical ideas as well as silly and serious questions through her. Does this make sense? Can I ask you something? How did you do that? I haven't met her yet, but we've become kindred spirits; changing, influencing and moving our cause along. Below is her seize-the-day-o-captain-my-captain advice to me. I love it. There's no better way to shake it all up than grabbing the bull by the horn.

Get out there. Take notes. Collect business cards of everyone you meet. If you have time, try and volunteer. Look at each organization's strengths and weaknesses. Find out where the gaps in services are. Figure out why some programs work and why some don't (hint: it's not usually about money). Collect the names of people you don't know--start a spreadsheet and include every single professional in New York City -- you're going to want to e-mail and snail mail these people when it comes time to promote and then again for fundraising. Learn everything you can about your cause. Realize that once your phone number is out there that you're going to get calls at 2:00 am or on a Sunday afternoon. These people are going to be looking towards you for answers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Start Where You Are

After much thinking and reflection, I (for now, at least) have decided to take a year to research, study, gain experience and exposure, as well as find my voice and build momentum before I incorporate as a non-profit. I've been reading these insightful books on non-profits and social sectors and they've described what it takes to be not just a good organization, but a great one. One of the major points they make is to vision the organization beyond one's own lifetime. If I can envision this organization beyond myself -- and greater than myself -- it will develop much more effectively, with precision and definitive impact.

Many of my peers share the same goals, passions and drive. What differentiates us is our experience in the social sector -- something i am just beginning to understand. I think it's great how much insight, connection, and awareness they have, like a quarterback calling out plays, inherently aware of where and how and at what point you want to throw the ball. Me, well I'm still here futzing around with the playbook!

So I decided to create this blog to help record my progress for the year. There's this incredibly inspiring woman, Rosetta Thurman, who blogs about non-profit professionals changing the face of the social sector. She writes wonderfully about leadership:

Having the courage to speak out about anything is a challenge, but when it is especially personal or compelling to you is when it most needs to be done. Our most authentic and inspirational leaders were able to move people to social change because they pulled the courage to speak out and act on what they believed was right from the very belly of their being.

We've all got skills and talents and ideas. For young nonprofit professionals with incredible idealism and passion to boot, it seems that the only thing standing between the problems and the solutions is having the courage to step forward and take action .

The "Courage to Lead" is my own stepping forward and taking action. I grew up pretty shy and pretty self-reliant, thinking I'd just be okay minding my own business, working for some firm. But life happens and life has made me see things and how we're connected to those things in an entirely new way. Once we realize we have a vision and have this intense desire to communicate that vision with the whole world... well there's no turning back. We can't get back into the comfort of our shell. We have to move forward, with courage, hope and discipline. That's where I'm starting. First with hope, then with discipline and courage will soon follow!