Gratitude, Part 1

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I have a debilitating illness that causes severe depression and anxiety on a regular basis.  It’s so easy to sit around and feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I make it a priority to remember all that I’m thankful for regularly.

I have the most amazing husband imaginable.  Not only does he love and accept me for who I am (with the illness and all), but he actively seeks to show me this love.  He constantly tells me how much he loves me.  He shares how attracted he is to me (despite my weight gain, probably because of medication).  He prays for me.  He cleans.  He cooks.  He does laundry.  He takes care of the kids.  He works hard to provide for our family.  He lets me sleep in when he can (yes!!).  He is just probably the best husband anyone could ask for.  And I’m so thankful.

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My kids make me so happy every day.  I get to homeschool Karis, and this is the best thing that could have happened to she and I.  I miss my boys when they’re gone every day, and I love having them home every evening even though it’s somewhat stressful.  It’s worth it.  Every night, I get to spend time with my kids in their beds.  We cuddle, chat, and pray.  I know that not everyone gets this time and that’s not lost on me.  I wouldn’t have the relationship that I do today with my kids if I had not struggled.  I fight for this every single day.  And I’m thankful.

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I get to live on 1400 acres.  I get to hike and run on this land whenever I want to.  It is beautiful.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  Not only do I get to hike, but it’s enough land to take the kids backpacking.  I never would have imagined that we would live somewhere like this.  And I’m thankful.

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We live with an amazing community.  One that gives and gives.  Ladies’ nights happen every two weeks.  When someone has a baby, enough people make them food that they don’t have to worry about making meals for a while.  If someone needs something, there is always someone there to provide.  There’s enough love to provide for the deepest needs.  I’m developing close friendships.  And I’m thankful.

I could go on and on about all that I’m thankful for, but I’ll end this for now.  I just thought I’d share a little bit of what’s going on in my mind right now.

Running Away from the Dark Cloud

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Remember in my last post when I talked about napping every day last week?  I napped again today (despite saying I wouldn’t).  I’m realizing today that my depression is creeping back in.  I thought my new medication was a “miracle,” and I realized today that either I’m not on the right dose yet, or it’s not the “miracle” I thought it would be.  I’m feeling very discouraged.  I’m working really hard to overcome this and not give in.  But it’s a fight.  I’m feeling that dark cloud coming on fast, and I’m running away from it as hard as I can.  

I called my doctor today and he increased my dosage, so I’m praying that will help.  But I’m not super hopeful.  I’ve been talking to people about bipolar and the more I get to know the illness, the more I realize this is something I will be battling my whole life.  There are medications that truly help, but there will always be extreme ups and downs.  It’s just the nature of the illness.  I know some seasons will be better than others and I’m thankful that there will be good seasons.  But in the meantime I’m feeling pretty hopeless about the long-term.

In the meantime, I put one foot in front of the other and practice self care.  I will drag myself through this the best I can.

Hypomania, Depression, Anxiety, and Self Care

IMG_2706 On our hike yesterday on a trail at camp.

This past week was great in a lot of ways, but discouraging in some ways.  I was hoping that by quitting my job my anxiety and depression would just disappear.  That I would feel as I did before I started working.  I was so “on top” of things.  I followed a schedule and specific routine every day.  I got up at 6:15 with no trouble.  I was showered and ready (make up and dried hair) by the time we started school.  While Karis was doing her independent work, I was cleaning and doing laundry.  The house was always spotless and the laundry was always caught up.  I made dinner every night and even baked bread a few times a week.  I also made more breakfasts from scratch.  I was just on top of everything.

This week was not that way.  I found myself taking naps every morning while Karis was doing her independent work.  I was just so tired.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  I did laundry, but I didn’t stay on top of it like I did before.  I cleaned up the house, but it wasn’t spotless all the time.  And luckily we ate all meals in the dining hall or we would have been having easy meals like mac n cheese or a frozen dinner.

I talked to my counselor about it last week and she thinks maybe I was having some hypomania the few weeks before I started working.  And a week into working I went down hill (which is normal after hypomania).  It’s discouraging, but it’s also encouraging in some ways. I’m beginning to learn what “normal” is.  Normal is doing some laundry and cleaning up the house some, but it’s not perfection.  I was feeling like I was doing everything perfectly the weeks before I started working, and that can only last so long.  It’s not normal to do everything perfectly.  And it’s okay that I’m not perfect.  I was trying to catch up on sleep this past week, and I’m feeling better now.  I didn’t sleep much for over a month, so it just caught up to me.  It’s okay.  It’s normal to not have a spotless house all the time.

I want to get back into routine this week (meaning no nap every morning), but I don’t plan on sticking to my schedule completely.  I can chill out a little and still follow a routine.

On another note.  I thought I would share something that I’ve been holding back for a while because I thought it made me less of a person.  I have decided to start working towards getting disability (knowing I will probably have to get a lawyer to do this).  I’m actually already on the second step.  I have an appointment with their psychiatrist on the 19th.  I have tried and tried and tried to work, and every single time I do, I end up having to quit because of depression, severe anxiety, and panic attacks.  These things affect my ability to do my job and live my life.  I am coming to terms with the fact that I just can’t work.  Through this process, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I have a debilitating illness that affects my life in every way.  It can be frustrating to say the least because I want to work.  I want to contribute.  I want to be successful at something.  But I’m learning that it’s not something I can do.  I think I’m learning to be okay with it.  I’m submitting to the fact that I have done my best, and now I can move forward.

My goal for the new year is to learn to live this life to the fullest, and part of that is coming to terms with my illness and learning how to take better care of myself.

Self care for me is routine but not a rigid schedule.  It’s hiking sometimes but not obsessively.  It’s showering and getting ready but sometimes just getting dressed and going about my day.  It’s allowing my house to be messy sometimes but keeping it mostly clean (because when it’s too messy I feel anxious).  It’s learning balance.  Eating for enjoyment and for nourishment.  It’s homeschooling my daughter.  It’s baking things from scratch sometimes and buying baked foods sometimes.  It’s drinking hot tea at the end of the day.  It’s playing a game with my family.  It’s being with my camp family even when I don’t feel like leaving my house.  It’s reaching out and loving others.  It’s spending time in the word but not feeling guilty when I miss out that day.  It’s worshipping my Savior out of love and adoration for Him.  It’s realizing that He has a plan and a purpose for every thing.

If I stick to self care every single day (in some shape or form), I am at my best.  I believe that self care is one of the most important things when it comes to mental illness.  If I’m not taking care of myself, I struggle and become anxious and depressed.  It takes a LOT of work to take care of myself some days.  My desire is to reach out to others and love them where they are.  But I must first love and take care of myself.  I used to think this sounded so selfish.  We’re always taught to love others more than we love ourselves.  I’m learning that I can’t pour from an empty cup.  If I’m not taking care of myself then I can’t take care of my family or be there for friends.

I am so convinced that self care is of utmost importance that every single day I ask friends in a small group that I started what they are doing for self care.  It makes every one stop and think about actually taking care of themselves versus just going about the day feeling empty.

How will you take care of yourself today?

Vulnerability is Courage

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Being vulnerable is hard, especially for someone who is a people pleaser.  After I share something deep and hard, I always wonder what people are going to think.  I make assumptions of what certain individuals are thinking or will say, and it can cause anxiety.  But, I have realized that vulnerability makes me stronger.  Over time, I care less and less about what people think or are going to say because I know God has called me to be vulnerable.  It’s in the moments of vulnerability that He is glorified through me and lives are affected.

I share for many reasons.  The two main reasons are because it helps me, and it helps others.

When I share, it helps me to be me.  I am an open person and always have been.  As time as gone on, I have realized that it’s okay to be me.  I will never change.  It helps me because often I have a lot on my mind and I’m able to get it all out.  It is therapeutic for me.

It also helps me because others know how to pray for me and encourage me.  I will be real here and say I need that.

It helps others because they feel less alone in their struggle.  I am often told that I am brave, courageous, and strong; but I just feel like I’m doing what God has called me to do.  I am often private messaged and told that what I shared spoke directly to someone and they are struggling.  They need to know that other people struggle too.  So often people put on a front that everything is perfect in their lives.  The “Facebook” or “Instagram” mentality.  It makes people feel isolated and alone.  When someone shares the “real” in their life, people feel less alone.  I only hope that people see Jesus in me as I’m being real.  I don’t ever want the focus to be on me but on what He is doing in my life and through me.  He allows all of this for His glory.

I would encourage you to be vulnerable today.  Whether it’s in a blog or on Facebook, or even with a trusted friend.  Be courageous.

It’s Been a While…

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I haven’t written in quite a while, so I thought I’d write an “update” post for those wondering what’s been going on with me.

On December 8, I began working as the editor for a website.  I very quickly realized it wasn’t going to be a good fit.  I was working way more hours than what I was told I would.  I wasn’t posting enough of what they wanted me to post (viral re-writes and viral click bait) because I didn’t believe in viral stuff (I didn’t feel that it was authentic, and as a reader of that website for a while, that was what turned me off).  These things caused my anxiety to very quickly elevate and I began having panic attacks.  My depression was coming on quickly again.  After 3 weeks (which felt like months), I decided it’s just not worth it.  So, on December 31, I wrote my resignation email and they told me to just wrap it up that day (so thankful!).

So, here I am, back to being stay-at-home-mama and homeschooling mom to Karis.

I would love to say that my anxiety is completely gone and I feel so relieved, but that’s not exactly the case.  I feel as though I’ve failed yet again, which continues to remind me that I do in fact have an illness that I cannot control very easily.  I take medication (and really good stuff… I was feeling amazing before I started working), but as soon as I start working, my anxiety/panic attacks, and depression come right back.  It’s very frustrating to say the least.  I spent an hour crying about it with my therapist, and I realized in that appointment that I still haven’t accepted my illness.  I can accept everyone else’s, but I cannot accept my own.

In the middle of my frustration and sadness, I’m happy to say I’m also growing in some good ways and have learned a lot lately.

I am created the way I am for a reason and a purpose.  God did not mess up when he made me.  I am here to help others, and that’s always been my goal.  I hope someone can learn through my life and hardships.

I have an amazing family that I love more each and every day.  They make me laugh, they love me for who I am, they accept me for who I am, they pray with me, sing with me, cook/bake with me, hike with me, and are just always there.  I could not do this life without them.  So even in the moments of self-doubt, I have the understanding that I am not in this alone.  My husband is my best friend and has been there by my side through all of this (hospitalizations, leaving jobs, etc).  I know that I will always have love and support from him and my kids (and our parents, siblings, etc).  I am using this time to really grow closer to them as well as teach them and learn from them.  It takes a lot of my energy, but it’s well worth it.

I am learning to finally accept my body the way it is.  I am finally DONE with diets and hard exercise programs.  I am learning to eat to nourish myself (and sometimes that involves a doughnut), move for enjoyment, and I am okay with the fact that I may never be the size I once was.  I have kind of become anti-diet industry now and am un-following everyone that focuses on that (especially the pyramid scheme marketing companies that sell stuff for “weight loss”) because I don’t need that un-healthy view of bodies staring me in the face.  It has brought me so much freedom.

I have learned that I desperately need routine to function at my best.  I have not had routine in three weeks and it has torn me apart.  I need to get up in the morning, spend time with Jesus while drinking coffee, help get the kids ready and going, then shower, dry my hair, and put on make up.  I need to do my one load of laundry a day, keep up with the dishes, keep the house cleaned up, and do one weekly chore per day.  I need to be there for my daughter while she is doing her school work.  And frankly, she needs me.  I am her teacher.  We had a good thing going before I took the job, and we’re right back at it today.  It feels so good.  I am learning that teaching her is my job right now, and I can accept that.  It’s a big job!  And soon enough (in a year and a half), the boys will be homeschooled and I will be teaching them.

Most of all, I’m reminded that God truly does have a plan.  Even though the job didn’t go as I thought it would, I learned a lot in my short time there.  I can use what I learned on my personal blog.  I have been reminded of what I feel is important, and I’ve learned what people need.  I am just using what I learned to move forward.

This blog will never be what is viral out there, and I’m okay with that.  If my blog never grows, then I’ll just know it is for the people who need it, when they need it.  I trust God with it all.  Numbers don’t matter to me.  It’s authenticity and depth that I’m looking for.  So, my hope is that you will always find that here.  I may not always post about mental illness, but that is typically what I post about.  Hope you’ll stick around!