All right, y’all. I feel like I was equipped for this time by going through all that I have, and learning how to manage life in spite of the trials.
To start, I want to give a bit of context of the things that I have dealt with and gone through over the years. It gives some perspective I think.
I’ll do my best to give the short version, and I won’t even share everything. Just what is relevant.
In the spring of 2001 (I was 18), I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was told that I have probably had it my whole life. My parents had to spend so much of their time and attention on my brother because he was always in crisis through high school, and I had to just keep swimming and deal with my issues (though I didn’t realize I had issues… I was trying my hardest to cope).
Then I got married and started having babies. My anxiety came out with a vengeance. After I had Ethan I also started realizing that I was having cycles of depression.
Then November 30, 2009, my brother committed a very gruesome suicide in my parents’ home. I think something triggered in my brain because of this trauma, and I have struggled so much ever since.
I had Levi two months later and then started down the PPD and PPA train in a big way. I haven’t been the same (and probably never will… PTSD changes your brain).
I have started and quit so many teaching jobs because of my mental illnesses. I have been in a mental hospital a few times. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and docs have reinforced that I have GAD. Along with chronic insomnia. I have been in counseling since 2013. I also developed alcoholism and had to go to rehab in October 2016. I am now over three years sober!
It has been difficult, still, to deal with my mental illnesses. I have a chronic cough that is worsened by my anxiety. But. I have learned some valuable coping skills over the years. They don’t take away my anxiety or depression per se, but they do really help. I want to share those skills here!
Prayer, Worship, and Reading God’s Word. These things seem like a “given,” but I know that I have put them on the back burner in the midst of the trials in the past. I don’t know why; maybe because I’m human and want to do things on my own. But I know that when I spend time in prayer, worship, and God’s Word, He gives me peace and comfort. Even if for a moment. And then I go to Him the next moment as well. And keep going to Him.
Practicing Gratitude. This is HUGE. It’s so easy to feel like the world is spinning out of control and that there isn’t anything to live for if you are only focusing on those things. Even in the midst of extremely difficult depression and anxiety, it’s so important to look at the things that are good. There is always good in your life. You just have to find it.
Counseling and Medication. I honestly wouldn’t be here today without these. I definitely wouldn’t be functioning at all without them. I went a long time trying to avoid them and I fell flat on my face. I love living a “natural life,” but I have realized that there have to be exceptions. I have to take medication. And honestly I take quite a few… the perfect mix of meds. I still have anxiety often. I still get depressed. But. It’s not out of control. I’m able to manage using my coping skills and counseling. I will never be free of my mental illness, but I am feeling more in control of myself.
Self Care. No, I’m not talking about manis/pedis, face masks, and getting your hair done. I’m talking about taking showers regularly, getting dressed each day, taking your meds correctly, drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious foods, getting outside, doing things that you find joy in; doing the hard things when you know they would help you feel better even when you don’t feel like it. For me, that means going out with friends even when I just want to stay home and watch movies. Going to Bible study even if I don’t feel up to it.
Routine. I don’t believe in strict schedules because they are impossible; and, if you’re like me, you feel guilty when you can’t stick to it. But routine is so very important for anyone, especially someone with anxiety/depression. Wake up and go to bed around the same time each day. Have your meals around the same time. Depending on what you do each day (like working or homemaking/homeschool, etc), you will have different routines. But whatever yours is, stick with it.
Do things that you enjoy. This one is huge for me. I have learned over the years who I am and what I find important in my life. For me that’s cooking, baking, and making things from scratch. I enjoy organizing and cleaning. I love homesteading and taking care of things. I love love homeschooling my kids. I enjoy being outside. I love camping, especially at Big Bend Ranch State Park. I love thrifting and shopping for books and decor at Goodwill and other thrift stores. I love continually making our home comfortable for us and others. I love having people over for food and coffee (not possible right now). I enjoy working with our Gap year students. I could go on and on.
It took me years to really be able to put this stuff into practice. And some days I still struggle. And that’s okay. Life is hard. Anxiety is hard. Depression is hard. And there are no perfect answers. But all you can do is just keep swimming!