A little about me

So, I’m not sure how to begin this post, exactly. I have never been much on introductions as I have never been good at the small talk thing, and the whole “So, what do you do?” question makes me exceptionally uncomfortable as I have never been quite sure how to answer it. Like, why do we have to base our entire identity on our occupation? I mean, I kind of get it: there are a lot of people who have worked very hard to get where they are and they are very proud to share their life’s work with anyone who will listen. But I’m not all about that. Because we are so much more than what we do to earn an income. Or how we like to spend our time.

For me, my identity is who God says I am. How do I define that? Well, let’s look at some things. I am a woman. I am a mother to three beautiful children. I am a wife to an amazing fella. Okay, many people can say these things. So, what makes me unique? Well, I play the guitar at my church. Two of my three children are on the Autism spectrum. I enjoy (sometimes too much) playing video games on my Xbox.

I am also a survivor of sexual assault. Twice. I still struggle with same-sex attraction. I deal with depression and anxiety on a regular basis. I sometimes take a super long time to say what I need to say-especially if it is something that is about my emotions. Which I am not very in touch with, by the way. I am still learning to feel, even though it has been almost 10 years since my last flashback or panic attack. I still have nightmares. Focusing on my kids and their quirks and struggles has helped distract me from my own. Sometimes I am not sure that has been an entirely good thing.

But I believe God is good. I believe He has a plan so much bigger than my struggles. I believe He has placed me where I am with a purpose greater than my weakness. So that is why I am here. To let you in on a little bit of my journey.

A very dear friend of mine once told me, “Our struggles are not for us. They are for us to share with others. They make us relatable, and our stories meld into God’s story and it’s how we can communicate with the world.” I wholeheartedly agree! So, I am here to share my story, and maybe begin a conversation. I have always tried to be as open and honest as possible, and I pray I will continue to be that way.

Thank you for stopping by today, and I hope you enjoyed your visit!

Flashbacks and Memory

When it’s the eight month anniversary and only one person checks in on you, you start to feel the depth of how lonely it is to lose a child. The rest of the world has kept on rolling, but I am stuck in that one day; those few moments when I was alone with her, right after I got her out of the water. I am stuck reliving them day after day. It has taken a toll on my body, on my spirit, on my mind. It sucks any energy I have right out of me, pushing me ever further into the hole I am in. It takes all of me to focus on the now and what I need to do to get through each day. Trying to be “ok” for my family and my friends is exhausting. The fear of losing them too is overwhelming, and makes me feel that it is necessary to be ok. But it’s hard to be ok when you are only a shell of who you were.

End The Stigma

What is it about mental health that makes it so taboo? Why is there such a stigma surrounding mental illnesses? Is it because we know so little about how the brain works? Is it because we live in a society that values perfection and wholeness over uniqueness and beautiful flaws? We all have flaws; we all are different. Why is it so hard to talk about our differences and be accepting? Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses yet we are always so shocked to find out people actually live with them everyday. There is so much pressure to always seem happy even if we are not actually happy. We have to be put together and have everything. Why?

Let me just say, I am not a clinician, doctor or therapist. I am just someone who has dealt with depression, anxiety, and ptsd. The following is my observation and experience with these debilitating illnesses.

The brain is an organ, and just like any other organ in your body, it can break down and need outside help, such as medications, diet changes, more exercise to produce extra hormones, etc. Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical and spiritual health. Depression isn’t just feeling sad for a while. It isn’t just wanting to stay in bed all day. It is an all out war on your body.

Not only is your mind telling you all the bad and negative things you already think, but at a louder and more “believable” volume. Your body aches without relief. You have no motivation to do anything, much less get out of bed. On top of all of this, your friends and family may not believe that you are depressed, and may give you a hard time when you haven’t “snapped out of it” in a reasonable time. You find it hard to focus on any one thing; things you used to enjoy are dull and uninviting. You find people exhausting, even if they would usually energize you.

I think about mental illness, and I think about cancer. Most of the time, cancer is not curable. Neither are most mental illnesses. Cancer is largely treated with medications, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. Mental illness is also treated with medications, and various types of therapies. Both have seen tremendous results from treatment and have also seen great loss. But when a cancer patient has gone through the ringer of treatments and therapies to no avail, no one blames the patient for deciding to let the cancer run it’s course. They blame the cancer when the patient eventually passes away. But all too often we see people blame a suicide victim for their mental illness rather than blaming the mental illness for taking it’s toll on the person’s life.

As someone who has been to the brink and back several times, it is frustrating and infuriating when I see yet another victim blamed for their final choice. I can say with certainty that the majority are only thinking of the ones they love when they choose to end their life. No one wants to be a burden-and no matter how many times you are told you are not, it does not silence the lie in your mind. It’s called conditioning, and your brain is really good at it. And those of us who suffer from anxiety are the best at fixating on all the negatives. It’s quite the vicious cycle.

So if you are someone who suffers with mental illness of any kind, know you are not alone. If you’re not, you undoubtedly know someone who does. Be a friend, a good friend, and be the listening ear and the shoulder to lean on. We can all do something to end the stigma of mental illness and medication.

It’s Ok to Not Be Ok

Since September was National Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to write a little bit about my experience in the hospital, on the mental health unit.

First, let’s talk about why I was admitted in the first place. If you’ve read any of my story, you know that I have suffered with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I have been on and off meds since that time and found that being on medication is what helps me the most, along with therapy and proper self-care. Break the balance of any of those things, and I begin to spiral downward. So, after Emily died, I had been neglecting my self care routine, and was just overwhelmed in general. I was not letting myself process my emotions and on top of that, my mind had put me into a state of shock for a while, and I had finally begun to come out of it. It wasn’t pretty. Once I began being able to feel again, I couldn’t stop. I made myself steel up again, and that just made matters worse.

I was at my weekly therapy appointment, and I told my therapist that I was feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with all of the emotions I was experiencing. On top of just simply wanting to be with my babygirl again. She asked if I could promise her that I wouldn’t try to harm myself when I left, and I told her that I couldn’t. She asked if she could call Hubs and tell him what I told her, and I said she could. He was able to get out of work and pick me up. We went through the process of finding out if the local hospital had a bed for me and what level of care I needed. Then it was the hour long drive to the hospital. We didn’t talk too much, though I felt relief almost as soon as we began heading towards the hospital. Knowing I was going to be getting the help I needed allowed me to relax and put my mind in a better place, temporarily. The Hubs was tense and only wanted try and help me feel better, but was helpless too.

Now, let me explain, the “hospital” as I refer to it, is not a hospital in the traditional sense, but more like a nursing home for behavioral health and substance abuse patients. There are individual rooms, a common area, a cafeteria, nurses station and an outdoor space for walks. I was assigned a nurse, a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a nurse practitioner who I saw every day, at least once a day. The majority of therapy was done in a group setting, with some patients being more talkative than others. The therapists always tried to make sure everyone had a chance to talk though.

The first couple of days I spent pretty much just sleeping. I had no desire to interact with anyone, so I stayed in my room and pretty much kept to myself as much as possible. It was easy enough to do as the nurses and doctors would come to your room to do their assessments if they needed to. There were cameras everywhere except the bathrooms, so they could keep an eye on where everyone was. I was encouraged to go to the group meetings, though I didn’t think they would help much. After the second day, I wasn’t as tired and felt like being more social, so I started going to the group sessions. It was required that you go to all the group sessions to be able to go to the cafeteria or on the daily walk around the campus in the afternoon. I spent more time in the common area, working on a puzzle and watching the talk show that was on the tv. The groups were interesting, if not helpful. My therapist kept saying that I may find someone else’s story helpful, but I found it hard to be sympathetic. Maybe because I was so self focused, I had a hard time for the first few nights. I didn’t sleep well and I kept having nightmares.

By the third or fourth night, I was really tired and pretty suicidal still. The guilt and hopelessness I felt over Emily’s death was overbearing and being so tired still, I felt useless in a ninety-degree, uphill battle. I won’t go into detail, but I made an attempt to at least hurt myself pretty badly. Though, as I told my nurse when he found me, I am pretty terrible at trying to kill myself.

They moved me over to the closed unit and changed my nighttime meds to help me sleep without nightmares and try to get some rest. The closed side was much different. My door had a magnetic lock that automatically locked anytime the door was shut. My room had just a bed, with no linens, and a pillow. I shared a toilet and sink with my neighbor and the sink had no mirror. I had to bathe with a nurse or aide present and we were not allowed off the unit. The only things to do were sleeping, sitting in the small common room to watch tv or color the coloring pages they had. I also had gotten a book from the Hubs when he had sent a small care package the day before. I remember hearing one of the otherĀ  patients remark, “Oh yes, send the suicidal ones to the boring side of the place!” I had a little giggle at that as I felt it gave us more time to reflect and try and focus on getting better. Once I had a better nights sleep and felt more in control of my emotions, I began to participate in group and really try to adjust my outlook as much as I had control to. After a couple of days, I was sent back to the open side of the unit and I had much better progress; each day was better than the day before. I tried to maintain a positive attitude and work to meet my goal of getting discharged in a better place than I was when I came in, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I was there for a total of six days, though it seemed like weeks by the end. I missed my boys and my Hubs so badly, and that is what helped me focus on getting better. I felt bad for those who didn’t have the supports in place that I do and I pray that they somehow got to get to a better place in spite of that.

I still struggle with depression nearly every day, but I try my best to remember that my boys need me and my Hubs needs me, and they need me to be healthy and in a place of healing. It will take me a while to get there, but I try each day to do a little bit better. Some days are hard and I feel like I have taken ten steps back, but I am thankful for my faith family and my support system that I have that remind me that it’s ok to not be ok yet.

Why Did You Have to Go?

i spend my days empty and void

sleeping all day and playing video games at night

trying so hard to fill this void

trying so hard to find you again

my life is missing you and I can’t seem to break through

the fog and black surround my mind

only when I don’t see you there

because you are always there in the distraction and noise

i try to fill my days with joy

but peace and solace are far away

outside this feeling of emptiness

my life is empty with you gone

i can’t seem to fill the void

i buy books and games and food and tv shows

only to hear the echo of you in my mind

the time and money spent are wasted

i feel so empty and wasted

why did it have to be you

why couldn’t it have been me

i spend my days angry at the One who knows the plan

i cannot pray i cannot stand

i am pushing myself further away

from all the ones who would provide comfort

even for just a little while

i am overcome with anguish and grief

i am overwhelmed by the sadness

i cannot forget that day

i cannot put you out of my mind for a second

it takes all my effort to get through the day

i am exhausted and yet i sleep all day

my heart and arms ache to hold you every second

why did you have to go

Memory

This is the last picture we have of all five of us together. It hangs on our fridge, a glaring reminder that we won’t be complete until we are all in heaven together again.

When I look at it, I think about how it took three tries-and the third being with Mark and I in the picture-to get all three just looking in the direction of the camera with smiles on their faces. Emily wouldn’t even consider giving up her ever-present paci. They all wanted the balloon that I am holding. It was chaos at it’s finest.

She always will be my little hurricane.

Today

Earlier today, I posted the last five photos of Emily I had on my phone. I have missed her today so badly it hurts. Her little arms wrapped around my neck, one of her arms down the front of my shirt-she always loved skin-to-skin contact; never grew out of it.

I was thinking of how much fun she always had, just in her own little world. She always wanted me to join her in it, but in those last few weeks, I could barely tolerate being in my own world, let alone hers. I was overwhelmed. I wish I hadn’t been; maybe she’d still be alive. But I was. And she is gone.

Depression takes so much from us. It covers my eyes and fills my body with so much weight and anxiety. It takes away my peace, my joy, my self-confidence, my purpose, my motivation, my SELF. How do I care for someone else when I can’t even care for myself? Yet there I was, trying to cope with life and keep up with my sweet angel. I hadn’t sought out help, as usual, yet because I thought I was handling it ok. But I missed so much with her…

I feel as though I was so consumed with trying to get better for her, for her brothers, for her daddy, that I forgot to pay attention to them. Is that ok? I guess it has to be. How do you better yourself without zeroing in on your problems and tackling them? I haven’t found a way. Balance is such a delicate thing. I have never been close to achieving it.

All the “what if?”s have been pouring in lately. I want to believe that all of this is in the master plan of the LORDs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts. And lots of guilt and self-blame. I can’t go back. No matter how badly I want to. I have to keep moving forward. Make a new plan, follow the new path.

But PTSD makes it hard to move on. Keeps my brain on repeat. Keeps pushing the feelings onto my fragile mind. A smell, a song, the way the wind moves the trees, can be a trigger. I fall into the cycle of bitter shame and blame, over and over and I feel reality and stability slipping into the darkness.

I just miss her so much. The pain just keeps pushing and tearing at my heart.

Strength

Born into a toughness

Grown into shell

Each barrage of tragic loss

Assures a chink be mended well

Each moment burns deeply

The wound is oft unseen

And the scars are hidden well

Underneath the smile and gleam

Carefully polished

Years of dedication to creating

The armor’s being

Is this strength

Fighting hard and bolstering the shield

To protect the toughened skin

Or does it mean that I am easily broken

But not easily wearied

Does it mean continuing on

After barrage after barrage

After barrage of pain

Is it the understanding that the pain will come

No matter what I do

But also knowing the gaping wound will

Be repaired

Is it finally letting go of the carefully crafted

Armor

Relinquishing control

I find shelter under the shade of Your wings

My strength is but a whisper to the mighty

Shout of Your protection

You lift me up when I have stumbled

Lord

Your Name is Great and Mighty

You stand firm on the mountain and You bring

Me up through the valley

Only in You am I truly strong