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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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.

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.