Mental Health Awareness Month: Cling to Hope

I didn’t expect this blog post to be so difficult to write. I knew I wanted to write about Mental Health Awareness, but I didn’t know how to approach this article… and not because I feel like I don’t have a voice in this battle. I know I have a voice, a story, and a passion about mental health… but how on earth do I put words to the ache in my heart?

I fought depression on and off from 11 years old to 28 years old. I am only 31 years old. I struggled with anorexia in middle school, late in college, and then briefly after having my second child. Depression has been a part of my life more often than not. Depression is what stole my childhood. Depression is what stole my motherhood for the first 4 years of it. Depression stole my identity for so long. I believed the lies it fed me for far too long. The lies of You’re not good enough. You’re not worthy of (Fill in the blank/literally anything other than pain). You’re not loved.

Y’all I went so long believing these lies were true. It wasn’t until I was about 26 years old and in counseling while I was recounting my thoughts out loud to my counselor. Specific thoughts I had when I debated with the idea of suicide… My counselor was able to help me realize that those thoughts were some dark lies. Many have said suicide is a selfish decision, and I understand that perspective. I also understand the perspective of the one with suicidial ideations… you’ve convinced yourself this is the most selfless thing you can do for your family. You’ve convinced yourself that they are better off without you, that you’re easily replaceable, and that you truly don’t matter. You’ve convinced yourself that the lies are true. **Please note: If you are thinking about suicide, I urge you to stay. Stop listening to the lies in your head. Know that you are LOVED. You matter. You have purpose. Go get professional help.**

This month, and every month, I stand with those of you affected by mental illness: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, you name it. I stand with you, I will fight for you, and I will pray endlessly that you hear God’s truth, and not lies.

Even though I had studied for years about psychology and have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, it took my husband to convince me to get help. I was in such a dark place after we had our third child… I went to counseling, I took Zoloft for a while, I continued studying and found Dr. Caroline Leaf’s work from my counselor’s suggestion. (If toxic thoughts are running your life, I highly recommend her book Switch on your Brain). Before we got pregnant with Sarah, while working with my doctor, I weaned off of Zoloft. I started using some holistic measures in place of it (and still do), and after having my fourth baby I didn’t struggled with postpartum depression. I don’t know if you can appreciate the magnitude of that sentence… for the first time in YEARS I didn’t have to battle my mind while caring for my children. Sure, I still dealt with those raging hormones the first couple of months, but I felt the JOY of motherhood that I had only heard about from other moms. To this day I don’t have to take Zoloft, and I no longer have to fight the daily fight to chose life and not death. 

I want to provide hope. If you’ve been struggling with mental illness for months, years, or decades… there is hope. I know, please trust me I know, sometimes it feels helpless. I have many memories of crying out to God begging him to just take it away. I am incredibly thankful He provided me with a solution for my body and emotions.  I want to encourage you to continue to seek help and healing. Reach out to your loved ones. Know that you are loved, wanted, valued. Go to counseling. Provide your body with solid nutrition, exercise and supplements. Feed your mind with positive thoughts and emotions. Surround yourself with loving people and influences. Believe in healing. Cling to hope.

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WINSday: Fennel Essential Oil Giveaway

Fennel-Plant

It’s that time again… WINSDAY. Today I am giving away a bottle of Fennel. If you are familiar with cooking with actual fennel, then you will be very familiar with its licorice smell and taste, and the same goes for the essential oil. This particular oil can be used aromatically, topically (dilute for skin sensitivity) and internally. (Again, I only recommend one brand I personally use for internal use, and you can email me at info@amandagerber.com to find out more about the brand I trust and love). Personally, I love the smell of fennel and its many benefits. Here are a few:

• Can be added to tea to calm the digestive system
• Soothing effects when used topically during menstruation
• Can help lessen discomfort with minor skin irritation
• Support a healthy lymphatic system
• Help curb your sweet tooth craving (hello? Need I say more? This oil ROCKS.)

These are just a few reasons you will fall in love with fennel, but one reason I love this oil is because when combined with a Mother’s Milk/Increased Lactation tea, fennel can help assist in increasing a mother’s milk supply. This giveaway seemed appropriate since August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month.

BreastFeedingmonth

I have personally nursed (and I am currently still nursing my youngest) 3 beautiful boys. Happy breastfeeding, y’all! To all you moms out there currently struggling with nursing: keep at it! Yes, there are times it hurts. Yes, there are times at 3AM when having someone else feed the baby sounds like a dream. BUT, there are those sweet moments when the world is quiet and it’s just you and your baby with oxytocin flowing and it’s worth every minute of the struggle. You can do it!

So, would you like to give Fennel essential oil a try? Comment below and tell me why you’d like to give this a go, and you’ll be entered to win a bottle of this oil. For an additional entry, follow me on Facebook (link on the sidebar). This giveaway will be going on until midnight Tuesday, August 18, 2015. Have an amazing day!

The proceeding statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information provided here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. These are simply things that have worked for me personally, and my family and friends.

Congrats to our winner, Sarah! This giveaway is now closed.

You Are Not Alone

Here’s the truth. I have been avoiding the blog. I really feel like the Lord wants me to share this journey, so after much screaming and kicking on my end I decided to finally give in and trust that He has plans for this very personal post. This post is about my journey of my battle with mental illness, and what a great time to share, as May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.

mental health awareness

I have struggled with depression for years, as I briefly shared in a previous post. Not just I’m-feeling-sad-so-let’s-eat-ice-cream-and-cry depression, but a very dark and lonely depression where thoughts of suicide and whispers of lies were in my head all day long. Day in and day out. How long has this been going on? Since I was 11 years old.

I fell madly in love with Jesus Christ when I was 21 years old and sadly I got the idea that once I became a Christian it would all go away (Newsflash: trials do not disappear, many times throughout the Bible there are references of trials and the spiritual growth that can come through them.  If anyone needs clarity on this, go read the book of James). Honestly, I felt like the depression was suppressed for a while, but then it would creep back in. After each of my pregnancies I found myself awake in the middle of the night sobbing because I couldn’t imagine persevering through this or seeing any way out of the pit I was stuck in yet again.

This last episode of post-partum depression has been the worst, hands down. Less than 2 weeks after beautiful Isaac was born I was in that bathroom at 2:00AM and staring at all the prescription medication in the medicine cabinet debating taking all the pills to end this indescribable pain. This happened every day for two months, and it would have gone on longer if my husband didn’t step in.

Those two months were filled with joy and darkness. I know, it’s a hard concept to grasp, but honestly I had moments of joy in the midst of the fog. When Noah and Timothy would shower their new brother in kisses, or when Nathan would have a tickling war with the boys, or just sitting back and realizing how blessed I am… Yet still feeling depressed… Which just made everything worse because that’s what I always said in my head, You have a wonderful life, you have no reason to feel this way!

Seriously, even when my depression began it wasn’t because of this tragic event or anything bad in my life happening… the depression just began and has been like a bad high school relationship ever since; on again and off again too many times to count. That’s the thing that is hard for many people to understand… I have heard well-meaning people just say (not to me personally, but about people who struggle with depression) “Get over it,” or “Just pray more,” but sometimes a mental illness is just that: an illness. Please hear me out, because I absolutely believe in the miraculous healing power of God, but I also know He works and moves in many different ways. Just because someone struggles with a mental illness it doesn’t mean their faith is lacking. It wasn’t until my amazing husband lovingly suggested trying medication to see if it would help, and the results have been amazing.

I started taking Zoloft and going to Christian counseling, and I feel like a new person. I am learning and discovering so much through counseling and working on forming a new belief system; a true belief system based on Scripture. Is my depression gone completely? No, I still have my moments, but y’all, I want to live now! I don’t contemplate suicide every day. I’m not up crying every night. I’m not begging the Lord to take me Home. I’m working through this struggle and have come to peace with the reality that I may have to battle this for the rest of my life, but you know what? If this is what it takes to help others battling with depression know they are not alone, if this is what it takes to break the shame and stigma attached to mental illness, if this is what it takes to bring God even greater glory… then I will fight this battle. I will fight and pray not just for my own battle with mental illness, but for so many others that struggle with mental illness too. You are not alone, and you are loved.