Top Five Tools for Mental Health

Some days anxiety is the furthest from my mind. Other days it seems front and center. Lately, my mind is becoming more of my friend. I have taken these last nine months or so to find what works for me. I think it’s important for us to realize we aren’t slaves to the battle in our mind. We can learn to win the battle… but we’re not gonna win it if we just sit back and take it.

I personally need to get in front of my anxiety. I’ve listened to my body to know how it responds to certain foods, supplements, and essential oils. I also had to become more aware of my energy and emotional well being. I had to learn to say no to things that were not serving me, and make time for activities that fueled my soul. Here are some of the things I put into place to reduce anxious feelings.

1. Counseling: Y’all, if your anxiety is taking over your life then GO GET HELP. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help. I cannot stress the importance of having an objective view into my thoughts and life. My counselor, Lorena, has a way of peeling back the layers during our counseling sessions to really get to the root of the problem. 

I also want to stress the importance of finding a good counselor. You’ve got to be willing to put in the effort to find someone you will work well with during this time. So, do some homework: ask around, check out reviews, and read up on some of their background. Also, even if someone looks amazing on paper, doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you. I’m sure you didn’t marry the first guy you dated, right? Well, it may also take a few rounds of counselors to find the match for you. It took me three other counselors to find one who I felt was right for me.

2. Supplements: Some people love supplements, and some people hate them. I say, you can’t personally hate something you’ve never tried before. I had tried my share of supplements in the past. I was already taking a natural, whole food vitamin, and while it may have been helping me physically, it surely wasn’t helping my mental wellbeing. So I stopped taking my former vitamin, and decided to try out doTERRA’s Lifelong Vitality Pack after hearing others find results in their mental health from it. Y’all, it’s a game changer.

When I started taking doTERRA’s Lifelong Vitality Pack a few years ago, I felt a significant difference in my mental state: I slept better, my mind was taking less trips down that super dark road, I had more energy, and even my husband noticed a difference. Now, it’s a must have, non-negotiable for me. I encourage you to do some research, and try out some high quality (don’t just go to your local drug store and expect quality) supplements. To learn more, go to mydoterra.com/amandagerber .

3. Community: This is huge for me. So many times someone is struggling with a mental illness, it become easy to believe the lie that we are all alone. This is not true! Many of us have family and friends that we can go to to share and seek support. I personally have a handful of girlfriends I can go to, and I know they are by my side and praying for me.

Do you feel alone? I understand that sometimes in new seasons we’re in a place of making new friends. Go do it! Join a church/Bible study, find a fitness group, or check out some networking events. Facebook makes this incredibly easy. I know the process of getting to know people can be difficult for us introverts, but it’s worth it.

4. Essential Oils: These are life to me. I know, some of you may think just I’m promoting essential oils because I sell them, but I sell them because of how much they’ve helped me and my family. If you don’t wanna buy them from me, cool! But don’t buy them from your local super market. I’ve gone over the quality differences before, so I won’t spend time here. Find a doTERRA leader that you trust to purchase from, and have them walk you through your best options.

I’ll be writing a separate post on specific essential oils you can use to reduce anxious feelings, uplift your mood, and help you stay cool. In the meantime here are a few general guidelines. Citrus oils are super uplifting. These are great to diffuse throughout the day. Woodsy oils like Cedarwood, Frankincense, or Sandalwood all will have a grounding effect. These are awesome to put on topically when you’re feeling frazzled. There are also some awesome blends doTERRA already has made for mood support.

5. Faith: My relationship with the Lord has grown so much in this season. I’ve realized that for months I was trying to earn my own righteousness. I was trying to check off boxes, stick to the list, and striving for perfection. Friends, this is an exhausting road to take. If this sounds like you: just realize our righteousness comes from the Lord, He loves us unconditionally, and He is the only Perfect One. His road is easy and His burden is light. Simply receive His love, we don’t need to earn it.

I’d love to hear from you. What’s something you do to take care of your own mental health?

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Mental Illness Myths: Shedding Light to Spread Support

I’ve heard so many myths about mental illness over the years. I’ve experienced well meaning people say some things on the topic that simply aren’t true. Mental illness is a tricky thing… it’s hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. My heart behind this post isn’t to bash anyone who has ever fallen trap to these myths. My intent is to shed light on the issue so we can all learn how to love and support our loved ones struggling with mental illness.

Myth #1: Anyone with a mental illness needs medication. This simply isn’t true. I think medication has a time and place, but it’s not for everyone. I know many people successfully working through their anxiety, depression, ect. without taking a pill to do it. I have personally been on medication in the past, and it helped for a season. However, I don’t have the need to take it now, and I’m taking other measures towards healing. I’ll be sharing my top tools in another post soon.

Myth #2: Anyone who talks about their own mental illness is seeking attention. You know how some games have a buzzer that the opposite team pushes to know they’ve gotten a question wrong? It’s loud and obnoxious and makes a bbbbeeeeaaaaa sound? Yeah, I would push the buzzer on this one. Sure, a handful of people have done this. But, as someone who works in the field of psychology, please listen to me when I say: It’s still a cry for help. So, don’t just roll your eyes at it. Encourage that person to seek the help they need.

Most of us that talk about our mental illness are just trying to break the stigma. We’re also trying to let others with a mental illness know they’re not alone. It takes some serious courage to share about this delicate issue,  and we could all learn from each other’s experience.

Myth #3: Mental illness is a choice. Now, stick with me on this one, because I need to unpack it a bit. Did I choose to have depression and suicidal thoughts  at 12 years old? No, I did not. However, I did choose to go 15 years without ever getting help. I was a kid, and I was scared and ashamed of my struggle. I carried that fear and shame into adulthood. I now realize I let those lies rob of of potential freedom. 

I didn’t choose depression and anxiety, BUT I do believe I can choose to let it consume me, or get in front of it. Treatment will look different for everyone, and I know there are things I can do to keep my mind in a healthy state. Again, I did not choose depression and anxiety. I do choose to fight it. I can fight it, get in front of it, and move closer and closer to healing. You can too. 

Myth #4: You can snap out of it. Y’all, I am so over this one. People that I love dearly have said things along these lines, and it hurts. You can’t simply snap out it. If you’ve struggled with a mental illness for a good amount of time, you’re going to need time to heal. You’re going to need time to go to counseling, find those lies and replace them with truth. You’re going to need time to learn your mental triggers. You’re going to need time to learn how certain foods and chemicals affect your mental and physical state. Healing is possible, but you don’t snap your way there. You walk your way there, one step at a time. 

Myth #5: Once you have a mental illness, you’re stuck with it. I see this myth more with people that are managing their own mental illness. I personally believe someone can be completely healed from their mental illness. I truly do. I believe it will take work, counseling (good counseling, y’all), a will to fight, and a lot of prayer… but healing is possible. The process with look different for everyone, but the end result can be the same. 

Ok, folks, those are my top 5 myths I come across in the area of mental illness. I’m sure you’ve heard your share of lies too along the way. What is a myth you’ve heard before about mental illness?

Mental Health Awareness Month: My Current Journey

Our mental health can change and shift, as it has for me over the years. It’s a process of conquering one battle, and a then days/weeks/months/years later stepping up to another one. The road from a toxic mind to a healthy mind isn’t a quick and clean journey. It’s a process… and it’s messy. But it’s a battle worth fighting.

I’ve dealt with depression on and off for decades. Some of you were with me as I shared my battle a few years ago. I went through lots of healing and breakthrough, and had a few really great years where I didn’t struggle with my mental health.

Yet, with a background of depression, there are some dark and deep lies that seemed to settle in my soul. Lately these lies seem to carry over every area in my life, and had become crippling. Simple, everyday tasks and responsibilities had become difficult and incredibly tiring. 

While I praise the Lord that I’m no longer suicidal, I had dealt with some pretty crippling anxiety over the past year. I was constantly going through the motions of life while feeling like I was one hiccup away from an anxiety attack. I had dealt with anxiety in the past (depression and anxiety go hand in hand often), but never to this level. It had reached a new height where I recognized I needed outside help. And that was okay. 

My chest constantly felt tight, shoulders tense, and at times I had to put some serious effort into slowing my breath so I wouldn’t hyperventilate in the middle of making tacos for dinner. I had to put immense effort into slowing my mind and racing thoughts. Sometimes I’d lock myself in my bathroom for a few minutes just to count and breathe. I’d lean up against the door, close my eyes, and start counting while slowly while inhaling and exhaling. 1… 2…. 3… 4….

I called my counseling office, and was put on a waiting list. I forgot I was on the waiting list until I got a call a few months later. I almost decided not to take the appointment, because I had been having a good couple of weeks. I am so glad I took the appointment.

My counselor has a way of unlocking deep rooted lies that I’ve carried in my soul that have been bleeding into every area of my life: wife, mother, daughter, doTERRA leader, friend, church leader. We’re digging up roots of some serious negative beliefs, and replacing them with the beautiful truth. I’m slowly working on starving the toxic thoughts and nurturing the healthy ones.

During the month of May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d love to share more on my mental health journey. I’ll be giving specifics on how I manage depression and anxiety with things like counseling, running, taking my supplements and other homeopathic measures, and opening up to some trusted friends and family about my current struggles. We’re not meant to fight this battle alone. Thank you for joining me on my recovery to freedom. You’re not alone either.

Got questions? Or maybe you’d like to see me cover a specific topic pertaining to mental health? Comment below, I’d love to connect with you!

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.

Not A Pretty Post

I have to warn you before reading this… this is not a pretty post. Not one bit of it. It’s dark and reeks of death. The only reason I am posting it is because I feel that it may help some people better understand what it’s like to battle with depression. It really is a battle for one’s soul. This was written about 3 weeks ago, and praise the Lord, since then I’ve had a good 3 weeks. Honestly, a couple days after this post I was able to feel more balanced and quite “normal”. So just know I’m doing great now, but for those of you who may be curious on what’s it’s like to fight with depression, this gives you a look at about a 5 minute window when depression won for the moment:

depression-1 Photo Credit: denvercounseling.com

It feels like the walls are closing in around me. It can start with something small. Like today, I feel like I got nothing done, and didn’t get everything on my to do list done so therefore I feel like a failure. I feel like if I can’t even watch my baby and get my house cleaned then what good am I?

I hate that when the baby is in bed and I stop for one second on the couch that my mind instantly goes to that familiar place. It’s not a good place, but it’s at least a place I know. In some sick way I find comfort there. In the darkness. In the midst of my lies surrounding me… eating away at my soul and my joy. Telling me I am failing at every aspect of life: a follower of Christ, a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, a housekeeper, a daughter, a sister… the list goes on and you get the point.

And it all started because I stopped. This is what happens when I stop. When the house gets quiet. And I hate it. But this is my life, my everyday life. There is this looming cloud of darkness that threatens me all day long and as soon as I let me guard down when no one else is around me, it overtakes me. The darkness seeps into my mind, heart, every vessel of my being and I hate that I can’t shake it. I hate that these disease called depression has this power over me.

My family deserves better. That’s how I rationalize my thoughts of suicide and my dreams of death. While some people fear death, I embrace it. I welcome death. Really, my family does deserve better. They deserve a mom that is able to get through the day without crying over not completing her to do list. A mom that doesn’t lose her patience and her temper. A mom who isn’t irritated every day. A mom who can manage to keep the house clean and the laundry at least in 1 pile instead of 17 piles scattered throughout the house. Most importantly, my kids deserve a mom who wants to live, and right now I don’t. Right now I want to die. I want to take ever single pill in that bottle of Zoloft and just go to sleep for a very long time. Then my family will be free of me and can find someone else that can do life much better than I can.

I warned you! I know, my heart hurt just reading this! I actually forgot I had even written this a few weeks ago and just stumbled upon it. Without even thinking, I was editing my poorly written document that I had even password protected in an attempt to hide. I seriously had no plans on posting this, but here we are… This is real and this is a part of my life.

Again, I’m really doing a lot better now, but you must know I am not the only person in your circle who feels this way at times. I am thankful that I always have my God to turn to for strength during these times, and honestly knowing He has a purpose for me is what gets me through these dark times. I’m also blessed with family and close friends to lean on during these times, but I know this may not be the case for everyone. I want to encourage you, if this is you, please get the help you need. Talk to a counselor, your physician, or even a trusted friend, but stop trying to do this on your own. We were created for community and relationships… to do life together, not just the Facebook-worthy parts of life, but the messy and grimy parts too.

So let’s get real. I would love to help you any way I can and join you in prayer as you or a loved one fights a mental illness. Comment below and please know I am battling in prayer.

The Struggle Is Real… For Real

I read my past posts and I cringe a little. I cringe because my posts seem so glossy and so happy, and this past week… Well, this past week has been a struggle to say the least. You see, in late April I decided to start weaning myself off of Zoloft. Not because I wanna act tough and be “strong,” (which is a load of crap anyway, because having a mental illness does not make one weak, let’s just get that common misconception straight) and not because I feel the need to prove how big my God is. He is big enough to do that on His own. I decided to slowly stop taking Zoloft because my husband and I want to have another baby.

Now that I mentioned that, I’ll answer your follow up questions. Yes, we are fully aware we already have 3 kids. Yes, we know we live in a 3 bedroom house. No, we do not plan on moving. Since when was it a requirement for every kid to have their own room? Oh sorry, I forgot, you were asking the questions. Ok, let’s continue. Yeah, here’s a tough question: If you’re so depressed why do you want to have another baby? Now, I can give you this long drawn out answer, but simply put: I love my kids more than I hate my depression. And y’all I already have a love for this baby that we haven’t even conceived yet. It’s crazy, and I can’t explain it, but that’s what happening right now.

So, I started by cutting my pill in half and just taking half a dose for a couple of weeks. I didn’t notice much of a difference, and still felt pretty darn good. Then I started taking a half does every other day. Again, still felt good. Then I started taking a half does every few days… and I started to get more irritable, but no depression yet, which was hopeful. I could live with irritability and just bathe in Balance and Citrus Bliss oil all day, right? Then I stopped taking my Zoloft. I refilled my ‘script, and then I came home and it just sat there for 2 weeks. I wasn’t really planning on the last day being the last day, but it was. This second week off the Zoloft has been a very difficult week. My emotions are all over the place. I cry at the drop of a hat. These familiar feelings that defy all the logic in my head are screaming at me. I hate these feelings… Mostly, I hate the nights. When it’s quiet and my mind is racing and I can’t get it to shut off. My mind reminds me of all these perceived “failures” that are too ridiculous to write down. I mean, really, if I didn’t get something done that was on my To-Do List it turns into me being the worst wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend/fill in the blank. I’m telling you, it’s ridiculous. My brain thrives off of facts and structure and logic. In almost any other circumstance, I push feelings aside and simply look at the facts. But right not my feelings are on freakin’ overload and screaming at me and silencing my facts loving brain…

I don’t really have a way to end this post, but I can tell you I feel much better after writing all this down. So there we have it. There are my struggles, not really solved, but acknowledged.

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.