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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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.