Your Help Matters

August 2, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Yesterday I received some feedback from a reader. She said, in part, “I’ve got to unfollow you. Wishing you the best but three years of downers is making me depressed.” After seven years as a blogger, I’ve come to accept that you can’t please everyone. I’ve also learned a lot about how to minimize negative feedback. But I’m in a really vulnerable place. So this one really hurt.

I tried to keep reminding myself that the overwhelming majority of the people who are following my blog care about me and appreciate my honesty about my struggles. But just minutes after wincing from this “unfollowing” incident, I received an email from a friend. She has been in these agonizing trenches before. She gets it. Her words were just what I needed to lift me in that moment. I hope she won’t mind me quoting her here:

Done

July 31, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Since coming home, I have felt considerably worse. I feel like I’m going backward. People say it’s to be expected with the stressful transition, heat, and trying to get my kids ready for school. But I’ve really regressed. The anxiety is worse, the depression is deep. I really don’t know how much more I can take. I feel like I’ve gone so far backward. Everyone keeps telling me I will get through this, that things will get better, and they seem so confident about it. But I feel so done. I feel so exhausted. I feel like it will never end.

I want to be the mother my children need. I want to be myself. I hardly remember what it was like to be myself.

I am desperate.

The minutes and hours drag by so slowly.

I want to be done. More than anything in the world, I want my self back.

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Weary but Winning

July 26, 2014 at 6:32 pm

A couple of days ago we took the long drive home. Back to life. Back to the AZ heat. Back to being 600 miles away from most of my family. I was so nervous to leave my safe haven at my dad’s house. I cried a lot the day before we left. But I hoped that coming home would feel like progress, that it would feel good to be in my own space again.

There is a comfort in being home, but at the same time I feel like I’ve taken several steps backward. Perhaps it’s just all the stress of traveling and having a broken a/c unit and a 99-degree house upon arrival. Perhaps it’s my husband going back to work on Monday and sending my 3rd child to kindergarten the week afterward. Perhaps it’s the heat. Perhaps it’s sleep deprivation. Perhaps it’s my kids being extra grumpy from all of this upheaval and vacation food. Perhaps it’s that I’m supposed to start planning/hosting twice-a-month activities for 10/11-year-old girls from my church at my home soon.

I feel so overwhelmed. I am so tired. I am so weary. I feel discouraged, run down, and stressed. My husband, parents, sister, psychiatrist… they tell me I’m making great progress, they tell me I’m “almost there,” but today it doesn’t feel like it. Today I feel so defeated.

I’ve certainly felt this way before. And somehow I kept going. Somehow I eventually reached a point where I felt like myself again. And I shared this photo to encourage others who needed a boost…

Tug of War

July 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm

This morning I woke up before my husband and kids. I usually do. In that hour or two until they wake I usually try to go back to sleep. Sometimes I beg God to let me fall back to sleep. Sometimes I do. But usually I just lie there and pray… for my husband, for my kids, for all the people who are praying for me. I pray for strength, for endurance, for shields of light, for miracles. Some days I get up, and I feel almost normal. Those are gifts.

This morning I awoke with a heavy heart, with fear, with despair, with bitterness (PMS probably has something to do with it). And I cried and cried until it got really snotty and messy. I am so weary. I am so tired of fighting for my life. This tug of war, pulling me apart, stretching my soul to its breaking pointI don’t know how much more I can take.

The darkness whispers, “Life’s just too hard. What’s the point? It’s just going to get harder. It’s not worth this agony. Why prolong the misery any more?”

My husband, my parents, my sister, my friendsthey hold my hand, they hug me, they tell me, “You’re going to get through this. It won’t always be like this. You will feel happy again.” I make them promise me.  A few nights ago, as we were all getting situated in our beds to sleep, my three-year-old said, out of the blue, in the most serious and tender voice, “You’re going to be alright, Mom.” 

But there is beauty in it

July 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Yesterday my mom, sister, and husband helped me with a project. It is a binder full of all of the cards, emails, and messages of encouragement I have received from my people in the past few months, some of whom I’ve known for years and some of whom I haven’t yet met in this life. It also has uplifting quotes, scriptures, and pictures from Pinterest. I plan to add more and more to it as I receive them.

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One Foot in Front of the Other

July 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

This morning we got up extra early. I hadn’t slept well, and I didn’t really want to get up, but I did.

Every year for several years my husband and occasionally myself and other family members have run a race called the Freedom Run for the 4th of July. This was the first year that my oldest daughter had signed up for the 5k with her dad. My second-oldest daughter wanted to do the one-mile, so (several months ago) I agreed to do it with her.

But last night I was dreading it. Sleep is precious to me these days, and I wasn’t sure if I even had the strength to go that one mile. But I knew how excited my daughter was. And I knew I couldn’t let her down.

So I got up. And we got ready. And we went to the race.

We arrived just as the one-mile race was beginning, so we rushed to the start. And for a mile, I ran (very slowly) with my daughter out ahead of me, saying, “Come on, Mom. You can do it!” Over and over.

I couldn’t help thinking how fitting it was. It was hard, and I didn’t really want to do it, but it was the light and strength of my daughter that kept me putting one foot in front of the other.

Waiting for Light

July 1, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I’m not sure where to begin.

Two years ago (2012), around this time of year, I first became acquainted with anxiety and depression like nothing I had ever experienced before. After a few months of enduring and trying a variety of natural remedies, I turned to medication. It was a couple of months of crawling through hell while I waited for the medication to help. But eventually it did. And I felt like myself again.

We thought the medication would only be a temporary thing. I slowly (slowly) weaned down over the course of last year. I took my last dose at the beginning of March of this year (2014). March I felt fine. I thought, “That was easy.” April I started slipping. May I plunged back into that dark and anxious hell I never wanted to crawl through ever again.

We made an emergency trip to my dad and stepmom’s house at the end of May so I could have extra support while I tried to get well again. All of May and for two weeks of June I tried more natural remedies (they could fill a whole other blogpost and probably will someday). I really wanted to believe I could get better without meds. When I started getting suicidal, we knew it was time. Miraculously, I was able to get an appointment with a well-respected psychiatrist on June 13. I started back on my meds the next day.

Liberate the Captives

March 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

As I was meditating this morning, my mind was turned to the captives, most especially the girls. It is estimated that at least 20 million people are currently in bondage worldwide, many of them in sexual slavery. I’ve written about sex trafficking before. Human trafficking is now the fastest growing organized crime. It crushes me to think about the millions of children being sexually exploited around the world.

Image Source

Image Source

Growing up, I never imagined I’d have to worry about my daughters being forced into slavery. I really don’t want to teach my daughters that the world is a dangerous place. I want them to feel safe and confident. But I also know too much about sex trafficking to delude myself into thinking my daughters couldn’t become victims in the blink of an eye. I just can’t stomach the thought of what could happen to them.

My oldest daughter is approaching the most vulnerable time frame for child sex trafficking… 11, 12, 13. We’ve received notices more than once about sex offenders living in our neighborhood and attempted child abductions not too far away. I probably err on the side of over-protective when it comes to (not) letting my kids walk places without an adult. I only let them walk home from school because I can see the school from my house.

5 Tips for Managing Anxiety

January 20, 2014 at 10:29 pm

My whole world changed once I became acquainted with anxiety. I will never be the same person I was before. But I wouldn’t want to be either. I’m better for my battles. I know it.

72268768989948578_ElZL6iWa_f-225x300If you’re in the midst of your own battle with anxiety, I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I know the hell you’re experiencing. I know you fear that it’s never going to go away. Those fears tormented me day and night for a long time. I still struggle now and then, especially when I let life run me down physically and emotionally. But overall I’m lightyears better than I was when those first panic attacks hit me like a freight train in the spring of 2012. I pray with all my heart that you find healing as well. I have faith that you will. But if you find yourself having thoughts about ending your life, please seek help. You are worth saving. And there is no shame in accepting pharmaceutical help. Medication helped save my life.

On to the purpose of this post… I’ve learned some tricks over the past couple of years as I struggled  to manage my anxiety. I can’t promise these things will help you, but I can say they’ve helped me. This is not medical advice. I’m just sharing what worked for me. 

My Prescription for Happiness

October 9, 2013 at 12:32 am

About six months ago I wrote a post called “Becoming Whole Again” where I gave an update about my recovery from anxiety and depression. Yesterday I received a comment from Nicole on that post:

I am really interested in the new “prescription” to replace the drugs. What are the variety of spiritual and physical things you were encouraged to make habits in order to protect yourself from darkness and fear?

I’ve been thinking about sharing that prescription for awhile. So Nicole’s comment was the nudge I needed. I wrote this list in my journal on March 16, 2013. I feel it was a joint-effort between God and me, that we made the list together. At the time I wasn’t doing any of the things consistently and some not at all.

My daughter pretending to meditate

1) Go to bed by 10:00 p.m. and wake up early.
2) Meditate.
3) Read my scriptures.
4) Exercise.
5) Sing and play the piano.
6) Hold each child in my arms.
7) Have sex at least once a week.

Back in July I started meditating (kundalini yoga meditation) and singing every day. I haven’t missed a day since. I’m approaching 80 days. After I started this daily meditation practice, I felt so amazing that I cut my medication dose in half again. So now I’m down to 1/4 of my prescribed dose every other day. There were a few discouraging days while my body adjusted, but now that I’ve stabilized, the bad days are few and far between.

Brought Back to Life

May 16, 2013 at 10:59 pm

An online friend of mine is working on a book about suicide. Last month she asked me if I would write something for their book. I told her I’d be honored. Most of you have probably already read/heard versions of this story, but I thought I’d share a modified version of my essay here anyway. Perhaps one of you needs a glimmer of hope. I hope my story can be a light in someone else’s darkness.

After my parents’ divorce when I was a toddler, my grandmother had raised me, called me her “baby,” saved my life. As a young woman I often said, “When Grandma dies, I’m going to fall apart.” I was mostly joking. I had no idea just how prophetic those words would prove to be, and living that reality was no joke.

The first panic attack hit me a month before she died. I had never experienced anything like it before. For a week, I was in an agonizing anxiety, my heart racing, my mind a whirl of fears, my body throbbing in “fight or flight” mode. Strange as it sounds, I think some part of my soul could feel that Grandma would soon be dying, and so I started “dying” inside myself.

I had a brief respite from the agony. I thought it was over. I thought it was a weird fluke. When I spoke to Grandma on the phone for the last time before her death, I was at peace as I told her, “It’s OK, Grandma. You can go.” And for the month afterward, I am certain I was being held up by angels. But then, when we returned home a few weeks after the funeral, I started to crack, and the panic came back with a vengeance.

AZ Holistic Living Conference

March 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Several weeks ago I entered a contest to win three free tickets to the AZ Holistic Living Conference by writing about a profound holistic healing experience. I had a feeling I was going to win. Not sure why, but I just knew I needed to be at the conference and assumed those free tickets were going to get me there. And they did… along with some other friends who also felt like they needed to be there. The theme for the conference was “What’s in my bag?” It was, for me, an extremely powerful and wonderful day. Thank you, organizers and volunteers and presenters, for giving me that great gift.

I thought I’d share some of the things I learned.

1) Keynote Speaker: K.C. Miller

I think the part of K.C.’s presentation that made the deepest impact on me was when she taught the concept of being a “seer.” She talked about how suicide takes more lives than war, and so many people walk around feeling like they’re unimportant and invisible to the rest of the world. She had us find a partner, face each other, and do an exercise. We were supposed to “see” each other and then finish saying, “__(Name)__, I see you.”

What Friends Can Do

November 2, 2012 at 4:05 am

Before this year I was utterly ignorant when it came to anxiety. All I knew about anxiety was that my little brother had struggled with it for years and a woman I knew had become addicted to Xanax in her battle with the illness. Once I began my own journey with anxiety, more people came out of the woodwork, confiding in me their own struggles and triumphs with its horrors. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert after six months of experience, but I have learned a thing or two about what friends can do to help when someone they love is suffering with anxiety (and depression).

Not everyone will experience anxiety in the same way. What was helpful to me may not be helpful to everyone, but I encourage you to try these things anyway. Perhaps your efforts won’t help, but at least your friend will know that you care. And if you’re anything like my friends, you just may save her life.

Do call often. Sometimes talking to another person was the only thing that got me through the hours and hours of fear and darkness. I had friends and family members who called me every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for weeks. If you (or your friend) are not a phone person, send encouraging emails or frequent cards in the mail.

Don’t tell scary stories. Maybe you have an aunt or uncle or cousin or brother who was hospitalized with mental illness or committed suicide after their battle with depression or suffered from a horrific sleep disorder for years, but your friend with anxiety won’t feel better about her illness if you tell her those stories. They will frighten her and further convince her that the worst-case-scenarios that haunt her daily have, in fact, happened and could happen to her too. Instead of fueling her fear, fuel her faith.

Do sit with her. One of the most helpful things my friends did for me was to simply come to my house and spend a few hours with me. Sometimes I wasn’t much for conversation because my mind and body were too wound-up with panic, but just having a stable person present gave me some relief and helped me pass the time. When you’re fighting tooth and nail to get through each minute of the day, anything that makes the time go faster is a welcome reprieve. If you can get her out of the house and into some fresh air and sunshine, even better.

Beautiful crucible

May 10, 2012 at 5:49 am

I felt like I wanted to die.

In my head, at this moment, two weeks ago, a part of me was wishing for death.

Someone very dear to me has lived with deep anxiety for much of the past decade. He has also spent much of the past several years abusing drugs and living in a variety of rehab programs. But as I felt my whole body/mind/spirit breaking into unfamiliar pieces under anxiety’s crushing blow, I suddenly got it… why he has turned to drugs, why he has contemplated (and perhaps attempted) suicide, why some days are a massive feat of endurance for him. I understood, to some small degree, just how horrifyingly debilitating anxiety can be. Anxiety is real and raw and ravaging. And I will never again jokingly use the phrase “nervous breakdown” because now I’ve experienced a taste of what it actually feels like. And it’s no joke.

But. But here is what I also know now.

There is no darkness too deep, no fear too profound, no soul too shattered for love to reach.

Suicide: the silent thief of mothers

September 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm

A story my sister-in-law told several years ago has been on my mind today. She had been living in Denmark as a missionary and had a strong feeling one day that they needed to stop and visit a particular friend who had recently given birth. Upon their arrival at her home, the woman (visibly distressed) started crying and explained that she had become overwhelmed with thoughts of harming herself or her new baby, so she had been calling out to God to please send help. My sister-in-law’s arrival likely prevented a horrible tragedy that day.

This story was on my mind because of an alarming fact I discovered for the first time today. For so long I have read and believed that hemorrhage was the leading cause of maternal death. And hemorrhage does, in fact, account for a large portion of maternal deaths–25% of them, according to the World Health Organization. What I didn’t know was that there is (more specifically in the developed world) a larger and more disturbing cause of maternal death.  According to the 1997 to 1999 Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths conducted by British medical researchers, the leading cause of maternal death (within pregnancy and the year following childbirth) wasn’t hemorrhage.

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