A Girl Walks into a Room

Imagine your life like a room.
You walk into the room and everything you own, have, or don’t want is in this room.
It’s everything you have and carry with you.
People, places, and things.
Memories, possessions, gifts, disease, jobs, identities, everything.
You survey the room.
“I don’t like this in here,” you think.
“I wish this was in here,” you think.
You pick up things and smile and you avert your eyes from others.
The room is your life. Everything in it right now.
There are things we pick up and hug.
There are things we hold onto for dear life.
There are things we wish to throw out the window, and there are things we can, maybe should, throw out the window.
This beautiful room is your life.
You may pick things up or hold people with such gratitude, but you must also be able to set them down.
Things will disappear from this room and things will be added.
Things can be thrown out and you can open the window to let things fly.
This is your room.
People will come into this room and people will leave.

I think strength lies in being okay with that…being okay with yourself in that room no matter what comes, goes, what doesn’t show up, and what won’t leave.

I believe we must leave the door open. I believe we must reckon with certain things in the room. I believe we must let some things go.
I believe we must welcome each new thing and person with grace and gratitude.

“Welcome,” she said.
“It’s very nice to have you. Stay as long as our song plays.”

For things are just things, and people are just people.
It’s the energy, the soul, and lesson they bring like a messenger with a divine suitcase.
Welcome your guests, your guests being people, things, circumstances, and even emotions.
Love on the ones that stay too long, and salute the ones that go too soon. Cry if you must, mourn if you must, for goodbyes are hard. Hug their neck and watch them go, and know that soon, someone or something new will grace your doorway. Maybe a new version of what left or something entirely new. What you need will always grace your doorway.
It’s a divine play, and we are all characters with our forged and given props. There is music playing and each song has an ending. There is always another act, and always a curtain call.
You may bring things into your room. I think we do so purposely and also unconsciously. I think certain things were always going to knock on our door like an appointment, and I think some things come with no conscious invitation. I don’t know the difference.

I only know that they show up, and we get to chose to leave the door open, or lock the doors, or push our weight against the door to keep them out, or stand in the doorway waiting for them to come.

We get to choose the label, feeling, perspective, or emotion that we assign them. There is freedom, and there is fate. And there is always the freedom of perception. There is always the choice of how we decide to dance with what comes through our doorway. Are you going to swing and sway? Are you going to slow dance? Are you going to shake a tail feather? Are you going to sit this one out? It’s totally up to you. This is your life. This is your room. However, I think you should leave the door open. I think that’s what they call surrender.

Looking For More? You’ve Already Got It.

Some of my favorite conversations happen at bars. It’s obviously not the bar, but the uninhibited people. Recently, I met with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We sipped on our drinks till last call, and deliberated on topics such as religion, spirituality, humanness, history, ancient and current conspiracy theories, and more. I love those nights. I couldn’t get a word in between the two boys, so I listened. One was schooled in history and politics, and the other in life, documentaries, and internet articles. As I listened to their theories and questions, I thought to myself, “There it is, there is the problem.”


I believe that separation is the greatest lie of humanity, the lie that we are not all the same.

The thought that one is right and the other wrong. I think we all got lost in the details of race, religion, class, beliefs, and country. What if we are all right and wrong at the same time? What if we are all just wasting time and energy trying to figure out and arguing about who is right? What if that’s the simple and impossible truth? The thought rang in my head for days. I saw my therapist after the weekend, and we just caught up on recent events.

How my grandmother passed away, how my entire family was in town, how I lied to my best friend, again, how work was draining me, how I was going out a lot, talking to exes, and how tired I was.

She said “Wait, I have a video for you.”

She hands me her phone with an Oprah Super Soul Short on it.

It was about separation. I laughed.

It was about a little orphaned lamb who was starving, starving for food, nourishment, acceptance, love, and connection.

I shook my head as I watched the video.

“That’s me.”

“Keep watching,” she said.

The lamb wandered from and to different dogs, goats, and other sheep, looking for what it needed and wanted so desperately.

Nothing would oblige.

Oh, he was so hungry and sad.

“That’s all of us.”

We are separated from ourselves, from something non-physical, and from each other.

We are so desperate to feel full, and we are knocking on the wrong doors, over and over. We are so tired. We are so hungry.

Our souls are starving, and we feed them no substance.

We feed them addictions, vices, relationships, money, religion, things, work, food, and any fleeting thing we can get our hands on. It’s never enough. It gets us by, but we are still hungry.

Over the course of the past few months, I got to spend more time with my family than I have in years. It was…there are no words…a gift at best. I have spent most of my adult life carrying so much anxiety and self-loathing about my lifestyle, my drinking, jobs, boyfriends, and beliefs. This month we met as we were, and we accepted each other. A piece of me breathed for the first time. I said, this is who I am, and they said okay. What this did was give me the freedom to just be, to reckon with myself more clearly, and to accept myself despite our differences. It allowed my soul to step forward even more.

I think when we stop worrying, distrusting, and judging, we make a huge space for love, connection, acceptance, transformation, and soulful evolution.

When you have the tether of pure love and acceptance, you gain the courage and freedom to be more you, a better you.

Or as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

I’ll tell you still, I don’t know the answer, I just know the problem.

Embark on something with me. Stumble with me.

We are lacking connection with ourselves. Our Within. Our something that isn’t human. Dare to knock on that door with me. I’m doing it through research, therapy, self-reflection, and conversation. You can do it however you do it. There is no way for me to know how you are suppose to do this. That’s what makes it real. I don’t have a instruction manual for you, a book, words, or even advice. Check in and tap into that thing in you that whispers. Look and ask for teachers. Teachers come in all forms. Spend time with yourself. Reflect on your life, your habits, and your story. Step outside of your routine for a moment and meet with yourself.

Talk to yourself if you have to, I do.

“Caitlin, breathe, what’s going on? How are you? You good?”

Then listen. Cultivate a relationship with yourself. I believe that when you meet yourself, you meet your God. I believe that’s where the goodness lies. I believe that’s where the answers lie. I believe that’s where we find truth and purpose. Not all at once. No, this is a life long endeavor, and the greatest endeavor. It is not the only endeavor, but it is where you begin. It’s where it all unfolds.

Hey you, right there, do you know what you’re harboring? I don’t believe you do. You’re harboring a piece of God in you. You are harboring a piece of all of us. You are harboring a slice of All. We belong to each other. Will you share it with us? Please? Let me know what you find. This world is so huge. I hope you explore it, but there is also a world inside of you that is even more grand. Will you explore that too? Go backpacking, exploring, hiking, and traveling in your own being.

I write to you because I wrote to myself first,

Caitlin V McDowell

To My Grandmama and Angel, Patricia Walker McDowell.

I’ve been working on “a piece” about my Grandmama. It’s taken me some time because it’s impossible. She passed away on July 5th. I’ve written some things for myself, but I wanted to publish one as well because I know that she would love it. She loved the internet. The last Facebook message I have from her is about the article I wrote for her son, my dad. She said it made her cry, and talked about how beautiful she thought it was. She had a way of encouraging the best in people.

In the 11 days I spent with her in the hospital, she said, “Everyone is so kind here.”

I said, “Grandmama, you know why?

She looked at me like I knew a secret.

“Kindness attracts kindness, it’s because you’re so kind.”

“Oh Catie, you have such a way with words.”

“They aren’t words, Grandmama, I just speak the truth.”

I feel inadequate to write about such a woman. I only knew you for 26 years of your 83 year old life. I can’t write about you, so I’m just going to write to you.

Dear Grandmama,

The morning after you passed, I had to go back to work. I came down to the kitchen teary eyed and couldn’t find anything to eat for breakfast. I just left for work hungry. I got into my car and looked in the back where I found a bag of Fiber One bars that you gave me a couple weeks ago. I grabbed one and laughed. No grandchild of yours was going anywhere with an empty stomach. Not on your heavenly watch! It was a grocery sack of probably 20 Fiber One bars, and 20 packets of instant grits and oatmeal. You fed me breakfast that morning just like you had countless times throughout my life, more than I needed and with so much love. Tonight, I write on a restaurant patio like I usually do. A waitress came out to say hello and check on me. She asked me how I was, and if I needed another drink. She said, “I’ve seen you here a few times and I just wanted to make sure you were well taken care of. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

I said, “I appreciate that so much. What’s your name?”


I told her about you and she gave me a hug. There you are again, Grandmama, taking care of me still.

I spent 11 days with you in the hospital. I watched you display the most beautiful and genuine sense of kindness to every nurse and doctor as you writhed in pain. You would clench your stomach and wince in pain as a nurse adjusted the pillow behind your head. You would say, “Oh, thank you so much. That’s great.” You learned every nurse and doctors’ name. As each would come and go from your room, you would say, “Catie, this is so and so” with some very important tidbit about their life.

“She has two boys named blank and blank.”

“He is the first in his family to go to college and he loves his mama.”

They would smile so big.

“Thank you,” you said, over and over to each one by name. You were so kind and gracious.

The night before you passed, I went home. I held your hand, kissed your forehead, and told you that I loved you. The next morning I got a call that you were already gone. I felt loss, peace, a lack of you on this earth, relief, and I cried. I missed you already.

My first thought was, “I forgot to tell you something.”

I forgot to tell you, “thank you.”

Grandmama, thank you for the years you spent with me as a child. Thank for never losing touch with me as an adult, even when I tried to hide. Thank you for the stories. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the pictures you took, and the journals you wrote. Thank you for everything you left behind. Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for the bond you created amongst siblings and cousins. Thank you for creating the space and time for seven young souls to become, imagine, love, create, eat, giggle, and explore. Thank you for creating that space amidst the exhaustion, frustration, sadness, and grief that you were carrying. There is no way for me to sum up those years. We talk about them every time we get together. You created a paradise for seven children to just be children.

The thing is that I have what I remember, but I also know that even more love transpired despite my child mind’s ability to see or perceive it. I can only imagine. Loss of sleep, crawling on the ground with us, pulling a red wagon down the street, making countless sandwiches with very specific requests, cultivating the most imaginative stories after very long days, and making each day so wildly special.

Everyday felt like a holiday at Grandmama’s house, and we were just celebrating being alive.

Oh, you want a sandwich? Here are seven.

Oh, you I want to dance on my coffee table to Michael Bolton? Turn it up! Here’s a flashlight for a spot light.

Oh, you’re curious? Let’s go to the library.

Oh, you want a song? Here’s a silly rendition that will make you double over in laughter.

Oh, you have too much energy? Let’s go to the fitness center and run around the tracks.

Oh, you want a midnight snack? Here’s some cheese “to nibble on.”

Oh, you want a bedtime story? Crawl onto your “pallet” and let me tell you about Squeaky the Mouse or the tractors that come alive at night.

Oh, you want a childhood you’ll never forget? Here is all my love.

It was never ending, the love, in so many forms.

You were this angel who watched over seven brand new souls to earth, and you made it so sweet. You never told us about the grief you had been through. You never showed it or carried it. You met us where we were and it was divine.

As I child, I knew you as Grandmama, but the days we spent in the hospital and the days after you passed, I got to meet Patricia Walker McDowell. You told me new stories, real stories, and you left us your journals.

Grandmama, as a child, you changed my life, and I get a little angry at that sentence because they are just words. Everyone has a grandmother. Everyone has lost someone they love. Everyone had a childhood and carries special childhood memories.

What I’m trying to say is that God gave us you, and you will always be one of life’s greatest gifts to us.

God knew what our family needed when our family was stitched together. We needed you. You are a piece of all of us, the best parts.

I spent 11 days with you in the hospital and you changed my adult life in those short days. I am a different human than I was three weeks ago. I am stronger. I feel older. You put my 26 year old life into perspective. You made me want to be better. You made me want be a stronger woman. You made small things feel small, and big things feel bigger. You reminded me who I was and where I came from. You made me laugh at myself, which I needed. You made me realize that a simple life could be the most profound life.

Thank you.

I feel this sense of urgency about my life.

I have to get the job.

I have to figure it out.

I have to find the partner.

I have to know all the answers.

I have to get there.

By just simply by being you, I heard, “It’s okay. Slow down. You can’t mess this thing up. Just be you, just love.”

I snuck onto the Tumblr I made you one night after leaving the hospital. Your feed was one quote reposted about 15 times, a quote from one of your favorite books.

“In the end, enjoying life’s experiences is the only rational thing to do. You’re sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Go ahead, take a look at reality. You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience. You’re going to die anyway. Things are going to happen anyway. Why shouldn’t you be happy? You gain nothing by being bothered by life’s events. It doesn’t change the world; you just suffer. There’s always going to be something that can bother you, if you let it.” – Michael A Singer, The Untethered Soul

This is your legacy to me. Happiness is an ambiguous word, and by ambiguous, I mean it looks different on everyone. To me it means that happiness is a choice that you make every day. To me it means, life is short, make it good, your good, and be good.

Your good was family, ancestry, children, the people you love, stories, baking, cooking, Facebooking, picture stitching, routine, solitude, your patio, reading, landscaping, and it was so good.

You entered this world 83 years ago and were met with unimaginable hardship and pain. On July 5th 2017, you left this world with unimaginable grace, love, and gratitude.

The thing about writing about you is that every one who knew you had a profoundly different experience with you. You had such a long, beautiful, hard, loving, and impactful life with so many souls.

Your neighbor came over after you passed and talked about how they cried when they heard you had left. You baked them cookies and let their kids play in your yard.

You didn’t change the world, you changed the world of those who knew you.

That’s what changed my life.

I’ve been trying to change the world while neglecting the world that is my life.

You made waves wherever you went, without even trying, just by being you.

That’s the life I want to lead, one like yours, simple and profound. It was simple because you were where you found yourself, and it was profound because you loved there.

These words still do you no justice, and no words ever will.

Someone told me at your bedside one night, “You’re her guardian angel.”

And I said, “She is mine.”

One day I’ll write more, but for now, all I have is this.

As I’ve said in posts before, “All I ask for is Love.”

And God gave me you.

I love you Grandmama, and I will miss you everyday.

Thanks for being our Grandmama. Thanks for being you.

With all my love,

Your Catiebelle

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do:Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Dear Dad,

I wrote this months ago, for no particular reason, but today is the perfect day to let you know:

My fondest memory of us was in high school. My heart had been broken by some teenage catastrophe over a softball game. I was inconsolable. You took me on a walk around the field as I tried to compose myself. I don’t remember what you said or if words were even exchanged. You were just there, helping me put the pieces of myself back together.

As I’ve grown into an adult, I see glimpses of you within myself. At the many jobs I’ve held, people comment on my “professionalism.” I absorb the compliment as if they are complimenting some family relic I’m wearing.

“Thanks.” I think to myself.

“My dad gave it to me.”

“You have such a strong, graceful, and accepting way of dealing with people from every walk of life.” I’ve heard.

“Thanks, my dad gave it to me.”

I have your stride. Your long legs, strong hands, and soft heart. I have your observant eyes, analytical mind, stoic demeanor. I have your eyes that see hidden potential, and the courage to give deserving people a chance, opportunity, or just love and kindness.

In my current role, working for what I call the family business, I have to bear the news to hundreds of individuals, that due to their background check, they can’t work for our company. I have an approach that I learned from you. They call it “the velvet hammer.” The art of relaying very disappointing news in a way that leaves people still feeling hopeful somehow. I got that from you.

I carry my own innate qualities of intense emotion, wildness, impulsivity, and mania, but the pieces I have of you are my steadfast anchor.

You teach me patience, unconditional and selfless love, sacrifice, and fierce loyalty.

I wear the badge of being your daughter like a Medal of Honor, like a crest stitched on my heart.

When I think about you, Dad, I think about the phrase I’ve heard you say a million times and that never tires.

“Do you know how much I love you?”

Yes. Always. I have never once doubted the incomprehensible love you have for me. No matter the distance, how much we do or don’t get to talk. I always feel your love and presence in my life. There are the things about you that I see and remember, but then I am also aware and ever grateful for the countless prayers, encouragement, pride, and selfless acts of love, that I know have transpired from you without my knowing.

You don’t love for show, you love because you do, very quietly, and so powerfully.

Dad, you have given me the world. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if not for the opportunities you’ve provided for me and the selfless unconditional love and support you have shown me. Despite the mistakes I’ve made or the times I’ve lost my way, you always look at me like the precious little girl in a pink dress that use to dance on your feet.

You will always be the best man I have ever known.

I love you, Dad.

“You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream” – Once Upon A Dream, Sleeping Beauty. The song you use to sing as I danced on your feet.

Chapter Two: What’s Next?

Last week, I stood up on stage and shared a chapter of my life. The thing though is that is was a chapter.

Chapter one was “If Mental Illness Ever Befalls You,” and I do, I claim mental illness like a badge of honor. If you had the chance to watch the souls that graced the stage you would see that’s indeed a gift and a badge because it requires immense bravery and strength (which are also cliche words that don’t do it justice.)

I claim Bipolar Disorder. I claim the highs and lows. I claim the vices. I claim the narcissism. I claim the self destruction. I claim the mania, and I claim the deep deep lows.

I don’t yet know where Bipolar Disorder ends and Caitlin begins, but these are all mine.

Before the show, I arrived at the venue to a few of the cast members sitting outside. We laughed and sentimentally shared about the reactions and responses we had received over the course of the whole thing.

We laughed and said, “maybe we aren’t the crazy ones…maybe we are the ones who got this thing right.”

Now, when I say we, I’m not talking mental illness. I’m talking souls who have been through the wringer. Those who were handed pain, heartbreak, loss, grief, confusion, rejection, with no playbook or warning. Then, those who stood up, and said “this isn’t the end.”

We are the ones who live in a body with our greatest enemy, who question, doubt, drag ourselves to therapists offices, search for answers and innovate, who dare, fall down, stay down, get back up, who risk, feel, and explore. You don’t have to be “mentally ill” to be this “we.”

I have the deepest sense of gratitude for my own mental illness because without the depression, questioning, self-loathing, and struggle, I probably would not have have graced a single therapist’s office, books, documentaries, other beliefs, self-care, and more truth.

I would not be a seeker if not for my mental illness. I would not be as strong. I would not know myself as well as I do.

I’m not a psychiatrist but I think mental illness is a spectrum. I think it’s hereditary, physical, chemical, temporary, and ever present. However, I think it is also soul based, spiritual, and an unavoidable part of the human experience for all of us. I think we all got a little bit of it.

Chapter two for me, is rebranding, being more true blue, and taking the risks required to become a truer more honest version of myself.

Honestly, I have no idea what that will look like or what I even plan to do, but that’s the goal.

If you came to the show, you know who Ian is. However what you don’t know is that Ian is a walking picture of the words he spoke, and jeez, so is everyone, but I’m going to spotlight Ian. When I first met Ian, he was watching something on his phone while we were preparing for rehearsal. He was very comfortably sitting in his theater chair doing whatever he damn well pleased. After we all rehearsed, the topic of attire came up and Ian didn’t ask what we were to wear, he told us that he would be wearing his boots, jeans, some shirt, and a hat. It was a simple exclamation, but it was inspiring.

If you watched the show, you saw that we were all wearing different things, and we all delivered our words in very personal ways. Clothes don’t mean shit, but they are an opportunity for us to express ourselves on a much deeper level. Everyone wore what they wanted. To be completely transparent, when I saw pictures of myself on stage I thought, “I don’t look like myself.” I would have liked to be wearing my favorite comfortable outfit, however my speech was also dedicated to my southern raised pearl wearing Grandma Bettye and mother, and it was perfect.

There are no mistakes in this thing, only ironies and lessons.

Now the attire of the cast is literally the most insignificant take away from the beautiful profound night, but why it stuck out to me is because it presented the question.

“What does life look like on me?”

I hear this question a lot from myself and my peers, but I know it expands across all ages, groups, and lifestyles, the phrase: “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

We beat ourselves up like we are suppose to know. Seriously, think about it, how the hell are you suppose to know?

You were dropped on this earth just like the rest of us. We were all brought into this world not knowing why. We all hit the ground running with hardly any time allotted to stop and think, “What am I doing here?” Let that sink in for a moment. Then give yourself some credit.

Look at what you’ve done. Look how far you’ve made it, all the while not knowing.

You have an infinitely unique soul, but then wait, get this, you were born into a life where you were handed a foundation. You were handed social norms, beliefs, culture, clothes, religion, experiences, opportunities, so many things. So many things that are beautiful, and I believe were planned, but so many things that you can lose yourself in. Goodness, it’s a balance.

It’s a lifelong practice; The art of owning and respecting where you came from on this earth and then honoring and discovering who you came here to be.

I do believe there is an innate eternal knowing within us, but it is not who is operating this vessel. An innate piece of heaven handed you the keys however many years ago and said I trust you, let’s do this. It speaks, and you are to listen, but you are not to know it all. You came here to take one step at a time, one risk, one leap of faith, at a time. You did not come here to know it all. You came here to be human. Relax in that. You are loved, supported, and guided by forces so strong your head would explode. Tap into that, and also cut yourself some slack. The possibilities are truly endless.

We live in a world that expects results and it expects them yesterday.

I took this class in my last semester in college called Mystic Spirituality. I absorbed that class like the richest of foods. It was the first thing in my life that confirmed that God was bigger than I had been taught. That God reached across and was within all different religions, countries, books, and souls. It’s where I learned about St. John of the Cross’ idea of The Dark Night of the Soul. An idea that confirmed that my depression was divine. But the phrase I want to share today that I carry with me from this course is “Tranquillo.”

It means calm, and the word, for me, derived from a poem or piece in Spanish that our teacher had us read. I tried to find the piece today but I couldn’t. What I’ll tell you is that it spoke to my soul, “Be still.” And “you are okay.” Right there, you’re okay. You are enough. These are just words, they do not transform you until you believe them.

Do you believe that you are enough…exactly as you are right now?

Right where you stand. Not when you get the promotion, the job, buy the car, the purse, get the money, clear up your skin, or lose the weight. You are enough right where you stand, I’m serious. Dare to believe that, just try it on at least.

Right where you are, it’s perfect.

Over the course of history, I guess we came up with all these rules about how things should be. Pardon my French, but I think a lot of them are bullshit.

You’re not suppose to be somewhere by your age. There is not a checklist of things you should have completed by now. You don’t have to have a certain job. You don’t have to wear your hair a certain way. You don’t have to be with a certain person, or any person at all. I promise, I know this with unmatched certainty for some reason. You only report to your soul, to yourself, and to whatever higher power you do or don’t believe in.

Now, you see, I’ve created quite a dichotomy in this piece. I’m telling to be still but to also move closer to you are, and then make waves on this earth. I think we can do both. Be still, know that you are perfect right where you are, and where ever you go.

Last week, I went shopping with my best friend for my big event, and I decided to wear my favorite outfit. Men’s oversized Carhartt jeans, an under armor pullover, checkered Vans, and a baseball cap. I know some of it was paranoia and insecurity but I could feel glances of why is that woman dressed like a boy? I cared and then I didn’t care, because it’s my favorite outfit. What I’m trying to do and what I’m asking of you is to go against the grain. Go against the grain in order to sharpen and wear down to what you are at the purest level. It is not easy, but I think if enough of us do it, we can create a new norm. And that norm will not be called a norm it will be called freedom. Sweet freedom. You can’t mess this thing up. The only way you can mess this thing up is by staying in a small consumer sized box. And even then, if you do stay in that box, you’re not wrong. But just make sure you’re being true. You can’t lose at this thing, but get out of your box if you feel stuck. You don’t need permission, but if you want it here it is: Go be [insert your name here]. Go be you.

Please. You are so divine, smh, so divine. You, yes, I’m talking to you. What’s stirring in your soul right now? Our souls are quiet but they are are not subtle. What did you want as a child? What nags at you? I’m not talking astronauts and veterinarians, unless that’s what is actually nagging, because that’s pretty damn cool.

Public speaking once stirred in my soul, but I laughed.

“Caitlin, sweet Caitlin.” I thought to myself. Your face turns red if someone asks you a question, let’s not get carried away here.

Last week, I spoke in front of hundreds of people. Get carried tf away.

Now, getting my doctorate stirs in my soul. We’ll see what happens!

You are not stuck in a cage of what someone, something, the world, yourself, your upbringing once defined you as.

“Who were you before the world told you who you should be?”

Here’s the thing, you actually get to rebrand yourself and start over whenever you want. Now, I’m good at this and it’s often attributed to my being Bipolar but anyone can do it, I just have a crutch. If you want to start something new, please do it. If you want change, do it. You get to do whatever you want. This thing is so short. You only report to your Truth, and outside of that, there are no rules.

I’m talking as small as the way you dress, the way you spend your time, or the hobbies you pick up. I’m talking as big as a career change or moving to that city you keep googling pictures of. I’m talking coming out of the closet, having those hard conversations with family and friend, or going to AA. I’m talking haircuts, nose piercings, tattoos, and questioning your beliefs. I’m talkin’ bout it all.

Your beliefs! That’s a good one. Where’d you get those? Are they yours? I just want to make sure. Did someone hand them to you? Check in on that.

If you smoke, or you drink, or you eat a little to much, that’s okay. Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

Just make sure you are being yourself.

Yourself! That’s a good one too. Where’d you get that? Did someone hand it to you?

My journey began when I started asking questions and when I began to dare to believe that there was more to life than what I saw, and what I felt. I’ve always had a million questions stirring in my little head, but as I grew older something said, “No, no, no, little Caitlin, here is how the world works. Here are the things you say. Here are the clothes you wear. And here’s the direction you go.”

Then somewhere down the line I said, “No, no, no, but wait, who is this God you speak of, why does he seem so small, why is he a he, why do I have to wear this, why can’t I say this, and why do I have to do that?”

Have you become something or have you created something?

Everything up until now…perfect. I tell myself all the time, “Caitlin, not a moment has been wasted.” You can only know what you know but go know more.

You were born where you were born for a reason. You were handed what you’ve been handed for a reason. Life is simply a series of seasons. Don’t get stuck in one out of fear that it’s the best one you can forge. There are things outside of our control, but there are also immense things within our control. There will never, in the history of human kind, be a you that walks on this earth. Please don’t sacrifice that for anything.

Are you going to play that hand you’ve been dealt, or are you going to let it play you?

Tranquillo, I say to myself as I write because I’m fired up. We can’t change the world or ourselves (same thing) over night. But that’s precisely the journey. We came here to uncover, discover, to fail, to laugh, and to become what we always have been.

Start somewhere, big or small, and do the damn thing. It’s exciting. I’m excited if you’re reading this, and maybe only few will, but if you are. I’m talking to you. Something in you clicked on this for a reason because something in you knows it’s time.

I write you to because I wrote to myself first,

Caitlin V McDowell


This weekend, I spoke at an event. It was beautiful. Did you see the picture that picture I posted? I was a giant smile. Well that was right after…

Here, let me just tell you what the whole experience looked like, #nofilter.

I have been tied up in knots, in every way a person can be, since the first day I was given the opportunity to do this event. Now, in the grand scheme of, you know, history, current events, and the world, this thing was no big deal. To me, however, it was everything. It was to be the most important thing I had done in my life 26 year old life. I would stand on stage and talk about a time in my life like a chapter…like it was just a chapter. 6 years that I had spent probably 300 hours in therapy, so many failed relationships, so many broken hearts, mine and others, so much pain. I lost jobs, my dignity, and holy cow, I cried so much. Then on Friday, I stood up on stage in a pretty dress, shared a shell of the story, and tied it all up in a pretty bow. So many emotions I didn’t expect or prepare for…I mean I don’t know what I was expecting to feel after publicly airing my dirty laundry, but it was a lot.

After the event, I came across a video of my performance on Facebook. I hit play, watched, kept watching, and thought, “That’s it?” That was my epic speech I had centered my entire life around for three months? That was the finale? That frail girl, in a J Crew dress, who could barely move her hands, or influx her voice, that’s it?

Now, before you feel the need to interject and save me from a seemingly cruel voice in my head, this is where I’m coming from; That speech did my story no justice. Every individual’s speech who stood on that stage did their story no justice. After I “came out” about being mentally ill, so many people from my past said, “I had no idea.” Yeah, because I didn’t tell anyone.

I, what felt like, drowned for years because it didn’t feel socially acceptable to be wrong in the head.

People tried to pray my depression away. I moved from city to city seeking peace, job to job, relationship to relationship, belief to belief, looking for answers. People thought I was flighty and crazy, and in turn I thought I was a Godforsaken mistake. Again these are just words, you have no idea, and I have no idea about your life and your struggle. So here comes the #nofilter part. Did you see my picture after the event? Cute, right? And very true.

“Now here’s the thing about this disease,” #nofilter. I had to stop drinking completely, 3 weeks before this event because I was scared I was going to drown myself in alcohol out of fear and anticipation over the event. What you don’t know is that I memorized the speech on accident because I obsessively read it every day for errors and modifications. What you don’t know is that I walked out of the theater before my time on stage bc I couldn’t swallow and thought I was going to vomit or not be able to speak. What you don’t know is that the next day, I sat at a bar drinking beer, sending thank you emails and working on a new piece. What you don’t know is that around 5o’clock that evening, I shut my laptop, closed my tab, started to my car to go home, and tried not to drop to my knees in tears in the parking lot. I got to my car and cried, and like most times, not knowing exactly why. I called Callie, asked her if I could go cry in her empty house. I picked up a 6 pack, and did exactly that. I cried, self loathed for crutching on alcohol again, for calling my ex, and for feeling sad after such a special and beautiful event. Why am I sad? What is wrong with me? Why aren’t you celebrating? I don’t know. I’m just exhausted from all of it. I don’t know how to process all of it. My story was so much more than those 10 minutes and I watched a frail version of myself who didn’t look like me, deliver it.

It was only 14 months ago that I sat in that psychiatrists office at Springwood where I heard the words, “You’re Bipolar.” ”

Just like my Grandma Bettye?” I thought, who I judged and made jokes about, and now she’s gone.

I had no idea what it meant at the time, I was just happy for an answer. Then, over the course of the past 4 months or so, I forged relationships with so many “mentally ill” people. And here’s why I’m writing, one of the emotions I felt over the whole thing, bear with me on this one, was fake. There’s only so much you can share. Honestly, there’s only so much I feel comfortable sharing right now, and that’s beside the point. We are all like that, that’s the world we live in, sure….fair.

Okay here it is, I just wrote to it, the feeling that surprised me the most was anger. I’ve been angry this weekend. I learned once at a treatment facility, that anger is a form of self-protection. It is an emotion that rises when you feel like you’ve been wronged and you need to get big and bad to defend yourself. The emotion itself is a great notifier, actions that follow, however, you must be careful with. Anyway, I felt angry and confused that it was brave to tell the truth, and that most people don’t. I felt angry that we live in a word where struggle is hidden, and the public only sees our smiley pictures. I felt angry that my Grandma Bettye didn’t get the chance to be brave for being Bipolar.

I spent the two days after my event with the same hair sprayed drenched hair, and makeup from that night because I didn’t have it in me to wash my face or hair. I leaned on alcohol again. I have texts on my phone from days and days ago that I haven’t responded to yet because I’m worn out and don’t have the capacity to respond thoughtfully.

The point here is this, when I was in college for whatever silly reason we tried to make Callie internet famous by hashtagging #callieacuff to see if we could get it trending. I was the only one I’m sure, but I believed we would, and we didn’t. Anyway, I’m going to try again. #nofilter. Not in the actual technological filter sense, but in the human sense. And I’m not asking you to post stuff online, I’m saying in your life, that you terrifyingly dare to be honest, transparent, and true blue. I left this whole This Is My Brave experience changed, transformed, full of love, proud, but also so confused.

We have an organization that promotes awareness, bravery, and truth? This reaches far outside mental health. I mean, thank God we do, but we shouldn’t have to.

That’s like having a nonprofit to remind people to breathe.

My idealistic utopian heart wishes everyday was a This Is My Brave event, but it’s not so in the words of Maya Angelou, “Pick up the battle. This is your life. If you decide life isn’t worth it, that is the worst thing you could do. How do you know? So far. So pick it up and make it a world better. Right where you are. It can be better and it must, It’s up to us.” It’s up to you.

A lot of my depression is spurred on by these utopian idealistic ideations. Dreams of perfect jobs, perfects cities, perfect partners, that I haven’t found. I’ll figure that out, but I’m also not going to quit. Even if this world or one life, is better by the time that I leave it, then it all will be worth it.

Like I said, I’m just getting started.

Let’s #nofilter this world one brave truth at a time. Join me, please? I can’t do it alone.

It takes a village. I want a village of transparency and I am going to utopianly write my heart out till I die. I’m Bipolar, but also I’m Caitlin, and I dream of a world were people can be themselves.

Will you, please, join me?

A Response to My PSA: To The Struggling.

Disclaimer: Please Read When You’re Ready

This part is hard. That’s what I say to please wait till you’re ready because I wasn’t ready to absorb these words for a long time. I trust that these words will find the right souls when they are ready.

To say it out loud is not enough. “It” being that you need help or that you need change. It’s a must. You must begin there, but please do not think this is where it ends or where it resolves. I flailed my body, heart, and mind around for years exclaiming help me, help me. I did so through my words and most through my destructive behavior. ”

Can’t you see how severely I’m drowning?” Look at how much I’m drinking. Look at how I spend my time. Look at my relationships. I looked to everyone, everything, friends, medications, and therapists to save me. Then, I threw a gargantuan internal pity party while no one saved me.

“They must not truly love me.” I thought.

I’m all alone suffering on this world and no one cares not even my Higher Power.

“I must not be worth it.” I resolved.

You have to do something. YOU have to do something. No one else can save you. From my own journey, you must also have faith in something, but you must also reckon with that which you believe in. You must reach. You must do the scary things. You must get yourself help. Don’t put that burden on the people who love you. I did it for years and I am fortunate that they stuck around. I know you’re tired and hurting but you will surprise yourself when you reach. Make the changes. Take the baby steps. Crawl and crawl. People will meet you along the way and teach, support, and guide you but then the ball is in your court. This is your court, isn’t it? You have a court. You’ve been passed the ball. Take a shot. Who the hell cares if you miss. Take another shot. How do we learn or become anything? We practice. We fail. We sweat. We cry. We doubt. We take five. And we take another damn shot. If you’re not ready, that’s okay, the time will come. Just don’t let the time pass you by. You’re the Michael Jordan of your own life. Don’t sit on the bench. I tell the girls I coach all the time, “Show me what you got.” Not in some cheesy coach slang, but because I know they got it, and I want them to recognize that, and own the hell out of it.

What’s your number? Or use your name. I was number 11 growing up in my softball days. “Number 11.” I tell myself. “You’re up!” Hit the field. Hit the court. Hit your arena. Show yourself what you got. No one is going to see it until you see it first. Don’t wallow around wondering why no one sees who are you when you haven’t even unveiled it yourself. Take that warm up jersey off. You’re hiding under it. Believe in yourself first, and the world will follow suit. See yourself first and the world will follow suit. Love yourself first and the world will follow suit. Every so often life brings us people and circumstance to stand in our corner and remind us. I pray that these people find you and that you find them. But first, be your own cheerleader. Stand up again and again until you feel it, know it, believe it, and embody it. I swear to you it’s possible. I write to you because I wrote to myself first.