As a mom who has battled anxiety and depression for almost twelve years, it’s easy for me to think that everyone around me, including my children don’t notice when I’m having an anxiety attack. I have lived with it for so long that there are days I don’t even realize I’m struggling. The weight on my chest feels like it does most any other day, as I’ve become so accustomed to what it feels like. Yet, for my children—especially my oldest son, the anxiety I try hard to mask isn’t always hidden from his curious little eyes.
“Mom? Are you okay?”
I was standing at my kitchen sink, hot tears streaming down my face, elbow deep in dish soap and dirty plates. I had had enough. Anxiety had taken it’s grip on me and I was overwhelmed.The house was a mess. My boys wouldn’t stop fighting. My husband was running late. Dinner wasn’t ready. The baby was screaming. My Bible lay open on the kitchen table, untouched yet again. My coffee mug sat on the counter to my right, still full and ice cold. I felt frumpy as I was still sporting the pajama pants I’d slept in the night before—at 3:00 pm.
No. I was not okay. My mom anxiety was at a high. I wanted to scream it as loud as I could. I wanted to throw the plate that I was holding on the floor and pitch an all out fit. I was tired—scratch that, exhausted from the weight of all of it: mothering, wife-ing, the parenting, cleaning, folding, diaper changing, baby rocking, constant cuddling, consoling, refereeing and bandaging. I was done. I had spent, at this point, eleven years of my life focusing entirely on someone else. It was always someone else. And that day? Enough was enough.
Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a mother lies not in the job of actually taking on the new role you are tasked with or in taking care of the new human in your life, but in the learning to lessen yourself. I fully expected becoming a mom to change me when I had my first child, but I never expected it to diminish me. I’d always heard stories of moms who claimed to “lose themselves” when they had kids. I could not even begin to grasp how someone could do that. Then, I was thrown into the world of unending diaper changes and nonstop crying. By days end, I was so tired from all of the noise and fussing and whining that I didn’t have time for me and eventually, I didn’t even know who “me” was anymore.
Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a mother lies in the learning to lessen yourself.
On this particular day when my almost eleven year old asked me if I was okay, the weight of it had just become too much to carry. Rather than telling him that I was fine when he could clearly see the mascara running down my face and could see the trembling of my shoulders as I silently released my stress and anxiety at the kitchen sink, I chose to be honest with him.
“No, son. Mom is not okay.”
I wanted him to see that his mom was a real person, with real stressors and real feelings. That, despite the attempts that I made to keep it all together for him and his younger siblings, there were days when I just wasn’t okay. When I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. Days where, despite how much I loved him and his siblings, being a mom just wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t even enjoyable for me. That even though I loved my children more than life itself and even though I would willingly lay down my own life for any one of them without hesitation…some days, I just wasn’t happy.
When I willingly opened up, spoke truth and allowed my sweet oldest baby to see that his mom was struggling and that she was hurting, I gave him a chance to practice all of the things that I had been so desperately trying to teach him: empathy, kindness and the willingness to lend a hand when someone needs it. He wrapped his tiny little boy arms around me and gave me a hug. He laid his head on my shoulder, because he’s almost as tall as I am now, and told him that it was all going to be alright and that he loved me.
Then, he scooped up his almost-two-year-old sister, who had been screaming at my feet for more minutes than I could recall, and carried her into the living room and started to play with her so I could finish my dishes.
I didn’t get any “me time” that afternoon, or any afternoon that week. I didn’t run away from my stress the second that my husband came home. I didn’t even get the rest of the house clean that day. But, I did see that the countless hours that I spent tirelessly and endlessly caring for everyone under my roof were not in vain. I also realized that “losing myself” in the role of motherhood is not only normal, but it is good, holy work. Losing ourselves is never a negative connotation the way that the world seems to portray it. Losing myself, losing my pride, losing my sense of “all about me” makes me more like Jesus.
Jesus tells us plainly throughout scripture that we are called to deny ourselves and follow Him. Maybe some of us can deny ourselves on our own; learn how to let go of our own selfish ambition without needing someone to force us to do it. Yet, for me, I am not disciplined enough or selfless enough on my own to deny myself of the dreams, goals and ambitions that I have. So, God gave me children. Those children have forced me to become less of who I am for the sake of becoming more like the one who created me.
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A few days ago, I posted something on Instagram that received a lot of really honest feedback from my followers. For those who aren’t following the government shutdown, we are right in the middle of it. We moved to California last July and with that transition came a lot of changes for our family. Changes that included minimizing my work load and client list (to the point of basically shutting everything down–again), as well as pulling our boys from the public school system in lieu of homeschooling them.
While homeschooling in and of itself is an entirely different (and very sore) subject for me, it has made the shutdown even worse for our family. Because I am homeschooling, I am not able to devote as much time to running a business (of any kind), much less grow one. The shutdown for our family and 799,999 federally employed families, the shutdown means no paycheck and no income. If I’m being completely honest, this is just one more kick in the teeth since we moved to California.
It has been a long and lonely few months for me personally; months filled with heartache, bitterness, anger, despair, depression, anxiety, resentment and great trial. I feel much like I am treading water every day of my life, doing everything in my power to keep myself afloat and above the water. Every single time I think I have reached the point of shallow water and peaceful currents, the waves knock me under again. Likewise, every single time I am in the middle of a struggle or a storm, someone tells me one of three things: it’s just a season, God is in control and that they wish there was something they could do.
It’s time that those things stop being our cliche, go-to phrases when someone is in the middle of something hard.
I know seasons are biblical. I get that. I understand that. I accept that. King Solomon himself wrote eight verses of scripture specifically talking about seasons. I know that there are seasons of life and that they come and go. That doesn’t make it any easier to listen to nor does it really help when you tell someone that.
Telling someone that it’s a “season” and that “it too shall pass” is like looking at someone who just lost the most important person in the world to them and saying something cliche like, “God has a plan.” We know these things. We understand these things; but that does not make them any easier. I remember when we were struggling with secondary infertility and people said the most hateful things because, somehow, my struggle-our struggle-wasn’t long enough to warrant any pain yet. People hurt in different ways, for different reasons and at different lengths.
When we tell people that something is “just a season” we are basically telling them to just shut-up and deal with whatever they are struggling with…quietly.
Most of us are aware that whatever we are going through is something that will pass. Whether it’s the clinginess of our children, the bout of depression, the period of singleness we may endure, the feeling of loneliness, insert-personal-season-of-struggle-here. We know these things. We understand these things. We believe that the thing we are battling will end.
But, that doesn’t make the right now, in the middle of it any easier. Just because it’s a season doesn’t mean that it’s any less hard or lonely. It doesn’t debunk the pain or the hurt. It doesn’t take away from the ache that is deep inside us. That pain is still there and it’s still very, very real and valid.
Of course God is in control. Do you think that because I’m treading water right now that I have stopped believing that God is good or that God can/will/does take care of things? Of course he does. He’s pretty stellar like that. I haven’t lost my faith or my entire belief system just because I’m in the middle of something hard. I may have days where I feel further from God than I would like, but my trust in Him is still totally intact. Even though I know this, whatever I am dealing with at that current moment is still freakin’ hard. It’s still completely crappy and it sucks. No amount of faith will change the fact that my struggle is difficult.
I can ask God to take it from me. I can ask him to make the burden lighter (even Jesus did that). I can cry out to him and lament and weep and tell him I don’t like it or understand it. I can hate the very circumstance that I am in with every fiber of my being. I can do all of those things but that does not mean that I doubt or stopped believing that God is in control. God being in control doesn’t mean that in our humanity we don’t still hurt or experience hardship. In truth, when we say things like this to someone, we are often minimizing their pain all over again.
I have heard this constantly since this government shutdown started and people who know us and aren’t affiliated with the Coast Guard themselves….”I really wish there was something we could do to help you guys…”
Y’all. I can’t even.
Nine times out of ten, when we say this to someone we are only saying this to stroke our own ego and make ourselves feel better about the fact that we either haven’t already done something or that we don’t really want to do something. There is always something you can do for someone. Be it you send them a gift card or some cash (which is something so many of our friends and family have done to help with the financial strain), write them a card or offer to babysit their kids for an hour so they can get out of the house and regroup…there is something you can do. Whatever they are dealing with and whatever their struggle may be-financial, emotional, spiritual-put yourself in their shoes and do the thing that you wish someone would do for you if you were where they are.
People all over are struggling in some way or another. It may not be the government shutdown impacting them. It may not be financial hardship. It may not be depression or death or extended illness. If you ask or look deep enough you will see that we all hurt in some way or another. Maybe it’s time we actually choose to BE the hands and feet of Jesus and do something…instead of just talking about it. Again.
It’s been quiet around here. 2018 has, so far, brought a whirlwind of changes for our family. We bid farewell to North Carolina and made the very long 3,000 mile drive cross country to California. After a couple of nonstop weeks, we finally got unpacked, settled down, and are falling into a new rhythm.
I’m not sure what prompted me to write today. Maybe it was the discussion I had with my friend Erica a few days ago about stepping off the stage and out of the limelight…you know, getting back to the words and the writing and the things that brought you all here in the first place. Maybe it’s the newness of our location and the need to put word to
paper screen. Maybe it is me looking to find someone to talk to as we have just recently joined a church and I’m still digging for my “tribe” here in sunny NorCal.
Whatever that reason may be, I am.
Writing, that is.
There. I said it.
That felt kind of like ripping off a bandaid.
I felt like I needed to just kind of blurt that out like you would in a face-to-face conversation you’re having with a girlfriend. Blurt it out when she’s mid-sentence so as to truly shock her and cause her to pause and backtrack and ask you, “huh?”
During my time away from the never ending feeds of Facebook and Instagram, I spent a lot of hours in the car riding shotgun with my husband with our daughter in the backseat (don’t worry…our boys were in the car in front of us with Grandma). We covered a lot of ground and put a lot of miles down on the road. We also had a lot of conversations. A lot of the really deep, thought provoking kind that leave you asking more questions and grasping for answers that you simply can’t find. Something in me started to change somewhere between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.
Striving to do what others that I admire are doing (whether it be in work, in school, in business or in hobby). Attempting to recreate myself in the sense of who I think I am supposed to be rather than who I was created to be. As silly as it sounds, it was the unfollowing by someone on Instagram that kind of sent me into a subconscious curiosity of whether I was not enough. (Social media is grand, right?) A now well-known speaker and blogger/author once followed me on social media and then at some point stopped. No real clue why. But, that tiny little “unfollow” left me wondering what I did and why she did it.
Why doesn’t she like me anymore?
Did I say something that offended her?
Am I not “christian” enough for her?
Is she too holy now that she has all these followers?
Is she better than I am?
During my time “off” I have learned three things that have completely changed the way that I look at and live life. Things you may read and say, “well…duh. Of course!” and then roll your eyes and click away from the site to go about your day. I get it. I do that, too. But, it’s three things that, although obvious in so many ways, we tend to ignore and intentionally forget,
I know that so. many. people. say that same thing, over and over and over again. But, friends, it is so true. I wish that I could get you to understand that striving to fill a void that was only ever meant to be filled by Jesus himself will never make you happy. No matter how much money you spend. No matter how much time you devote into growing your following or your numbers or building your platform. Jesus was and is better. Period.
Again, probably cliche and something you have heard countless times in your life, but true nonetheless. I think back to the episode of F•R•I•E•N•D•S (and any true fan will appreciate my spelling it out like that) in which Ross insists that Die Hard was his idea and that he has the napkin to prove it. God has planted something inside of you that He wants to grow…to cultivate…to bring to life. Yet, being a microwave generation, we tend to want what we want, when we want it–which is typically right this moment. Instead of waiting on God’s timing and trusting that He will bring to fruition all that is intended in His time, we throw in the towel and say forget it. I’ve had a countless number of ideas in my life that I have sat on and done nothing about, only to find that they are later executed by someone else. Typically someone I don’t know and have never met. My point being…when God plants something in your heart, follow through with it. DO IT. My
I have never met her but thing she’s fabulous friend, Ruth, has the motto, “Do It Scared.” There is going to be fear. And doubt. And struggle. You do it anyway.
I know that is not always easy to hear or to believe. Trust me. I have battled with this thought pattern for well over a decade. It is exhausting and it is stressful. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, no matter how far you run from it, you are going to be who God created you to be or you are going to be miserable. In my own life, I have struggled with trying to be like someone else for a long time. I
wanted to create things like someone else, shoot images like someone else, write like someone else. In all of my longing to be someone else, I allowed myself to diminish who it is that God created ME to be. I lost sight of what my passion is, what my style is, and what my voice sounds like. It’s okay to want to grow and I think it’s even okay to imitate in some ways (note: this is not me giving you permission to blatantly steal or copy something from someone else), but never to replicate. You are beautifully whole just as you are. Don’t ever change that.
Life and work and business is changing (and has changed) here in our new little spot on the west coast. God is moving and working and I’m just excited to be along for the ride. Maybe that will mean I start blogging again more frequently. I remember that I used to really dig that…
I don’t do well with time frames, guys. As I’m sure you can tell seeing as how two of the three Fervent posts so far have been late. It’s not that I don’t try to get these up on time, but sometimes when the good Lord is doing work in an area of your life, you have to just stop and listen.
Last week, I had an identity crisis.
What I’m learning right now is this:
When I’m praying and studying and working on bettering an area of my life, THAT area is the one that the enemy is going to attack.
I’ve already shared a very honest look at my depression battle here on my blog. No shame in that game, guys. Depression is real and so is anxiety. The longer we pretend it isn’t, the more people who need help are going to keep pretending that they don’t. But, that’s a whole different post.
Last week, I felt myself begin to slip slowly back into that pit. Nothing in particular set that off; no one did or said anything that brought it on. I woke up one morning, something I saw on Facebook or Instagram set me off, and that was that. I spent the rest of the week wallowing in my self-pity. I didn’t even bother to pick up the book until Thursday evening while everyone [hence my husband and our oldest] was at football practice and the littlest boy was sleeping.
When I did, I realized something invaluable…I was under attack.
You see, the enemy is clever. He’s sneaky and he knows just how to make us doubt ourselves and who we are. He knows that there are things in my life that leave me hesitating…dancing around in fear. Mediocrity is my greatest fear and he knows that. He also knows how to make me feel like I’ve become all the things that I never wanted to be.
We all have lists. Things we want. Things we don’t want. Things we need. Things we’d like to accomplish. Things we have already accomplished. Things we want for our children. Things we fear. Things we hope to never encounter. Habits we don’t want to fall into and characteristics we never want to portray.
I probably live mostly by that last list. The qualities and characteristics that I don’t want to represent or be described as:
I’m sure there are others, but all of the negative that I hope not to be, seems wrapped up in those words. And last week, I was pretty much all of them.
I looked upon the success of others whose work I admire greatly and found myself feeling not only envy, but anger at their success. I found myself bitter because of my own lack of success in areas that I know deep down are not areas that I was ever meant to thrive in. I found myself doubtful of God’s goodness and His power because I wasn’t getting/accomplishing/doing/being all of the things that I think I need to be. I found myself with “greener pastures” syndrome and wondering if I was missing more because of where I am.
And all the while the enemy was kicked back in his chair, eating popcorn and watching as my little world felt like it was crumbling. He was doing to me, exactly what he did to Eve all of those thousands of years ago…”Did God really say…”Only he was whispering to me…”Did you really think that you weren’t those things.
[pullquote]He was doing to me, exactly what he did to Eve all of those years ago…”Did God really say…”Only he was whispering to me…”Did you really think that you weren’t those things.[/pullquote]
And I was buying into it.
I pulled away from my prayer time. I felt so depressed and sorry for myself that I pulled away from my scripture time. I turned off my alarm in the mornings and rolled over until I absolutely had to get out of bed. My poor husband couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. And, quite honestly, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
For whatever reason, Thursday night, I picked up our book and couldn’t help but laugh at what the week was about. Even though I already knew what the week covered, actually seeing it and having it register made me chuckle. As I read, I found myself nodding and praying and saying YES! to my quite house.
Then, I did what Elizabeth does in War Room…I called the enemy out. I started yelling at him. Telling him to get OUT of my house, get out of my head, and go back to Hell where he belonged.
Never in my nearly 30 years of life have I ever prayed like that. NEVER have I denounced the devil with such assertiveness and know how. I did it. And afterward? I felt like my old self.
I say this friends to hopefully reiterate the importance of prayer. To really drive home the fact that we are living in a world that is overrun with the enemy. With his demons doing their damage and wanting nothing more than to take you with them. I hope and I pray that you won’t let them.
I sat down and wrote out some of my absolute favorite verses on who I am in Christ and then turned them into a prayer, written on an index card and hung on my computer for me to read over and over again throughout the day when I start to doubt…
I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do all of the good works that I was intended to do…works that were prepared long before I was ever thought of to do. I am a new creation! All of my mistakes are gone and have passed away and He has made me whole once again. I am God’s temple, filled with His Holy Spirit…having been joined to the Lord in one spirit! I have been bought for a price and my name is written in the palm of Christ’s hands. Paid for in blood and sealed with eternal glory! I have been fearfully and wonderfully made (src).
The enemy wants us to feel like we are a mistake. Like we aren’t good enough or smart enough or pretty enough or accomplished enough or WHATEVER enough to do the works of the Lord. And when he wins? When we let him get the upper hand? When we start to believe those lies? He gets exactly what he wants. He makes us weak and bitter and depressed. And when we are those things, we can’t accomplish anything for the kingdom.
So my challenge for you this week, even though we are moving into strategy four is this:
Don’t give the enemy the upper hand.
Remember who you are.
Embrace the promises that He gives us through His Word and cast that negativity out! You’re better than that and the only reason the enemy is attacking you is because he KNOWS that you are meant to do great things for the Kingdom of God.
Stay firmly planted in your identity and GO DO THEM.
Things to ponder for this week: Did you ever stop to think that your self-esteem issues or insecurities might not be “in your head” the way that people would have you think? That maybe, just maybe, they were a blatant and intentional attack on your identity by a very real enemy?
I got my first really ugly comment yesterday.
I’ve done well, so far, to brush things off when the not-so-nice comments come through my comment filter. I’m not one to get bent out of shape over things like other people’s comments or opinion. And in truth, the comment that was directed at me really didn’t bother me because it was about me. It bothered me because of who may read it.
Someone commented on my very raw and honest post about my battle with depression. A post that, after mentioning to my husband that I wanted to share, brought much encouragement from him. He told me I should for sure share it. I think he even said, “Why wouldn’t you share it?” That time of my life has made me who I am in so, so many ways. It has molded me, shaped me, tried me, nearly broken me, and in a full circle and round about way led me right back to where I was supposed to be…at the foot of the cross with arms open wide crying out to God: I can’t do this without you.
Life is hard, y’all.
It’s no cake walk.
There’s all kinds of drama that comes flying at us from every single direction: family, friends, television, radio, social media (oh you’ve heard of social media? Apparently it’s here to stay…). It’s no wonder that so many people struggle with anxiety and stress. Everywhere you turn there’s something else either vying for your attention or pumping negativity into your life.
I mean, come on. Have you watched the news lately? I quite honestly watch just enough to know that we aren’t getting blow up and to check the weather (though nine times out of 10 I check the weather from the app on my phone). There’s a reason that we live in a society where everyone seems to be on something or struggling secretly with something.
My life is a mess. I am a mess.
I wake up every day with a to-do list as long as my arm and if I’m lucky (big, big “if” here) I might cross two or three things off of that list. I have notebooks full of these grand ideas and plans and dreams and book ideas and outlines and charities I would like to start. I have dreams that could fill the walls of entire buildings.
And I have life.
And two children who need my attention and love and support.
And a husband with dreams and choices and ambitions of his own.
And friends who are struggling with unimaginable grief and things I can’t fathom.
And sometimes, less often now that in the past, I get depressed and anxious about all of those things that I am not crossing off my “must do list” because when the must do’s aren’t getting scratched off, the I dream of doing list gets left untouched.
I shared my struggles with all of you to say that you are not alone.
And by sharing that, I was told that I needed a mental health evaluation.
When I read that my first thought was, “How rude!” (Did you totally do that in a Stephanie Tanner voice?! No? Just me, then?) Then I had to take a step back. I had to wonder if this woman had ever known anyone with mental health issues. If she had ever known anyone personally who had struggled day in and day out with whether or not they even had the energy to get out of bed. If she had ever known anyone who wondered if there was a point to this life at all and whether anyone would miss them if they weren’t here.
It’s comments like that…
People like that who don’t understand how painful and isolating fighting depression can be…
I promptly deleted that comment. Not because it bothered me. Nor because I deny that I need help from a mental health expert (I go to counseling every other week and quite enjoy it). But because to someone who may be battling depression or suicidal thoughts…that comment might be the shove over the edge that they have been dreading.
Folks, please be careful with what you say and how you say it. There are entire movements working to remove the “r” word from people’s vocabulary because of how hurtful it can be to those with special needs. Let’s be careful of our words. I’ve reached a point of my life where I don’t care if you call me crazy or not. Jimmy Buffett even said that “if we weren’t all crazy we would go insane.”
But not everyone has.
Not everyone wants to be told they are crazy. Or that they need mental help.
Depression is a silent battle. One that most people are fighting in secret because of that exact persona that it brings. Depression doesn’t look like a Cymbalta commercial. It doesn’t always walk around with a dark cloud hovering overhead. I suffered for years and years before anyone knew it.
No one caught it until I openly admitted it. And by that point, I’d been through the worst of it.
I haven’t always be happy.
In fact, there was a time where I had began to wonder if there would ever be anything in my life that would make me feel like this ridiculous life on Earth was worth all of the headaches and heartaches that I endured time and time again growing up.
I wasn’t abused physically or sexually, as I know many people who suffer from depression are. I didn’t come from a broken home with parents who were alcoholics or who beat each other up. In fact, most people just always assumed that I had this picture perfect little life. My dad worked hard to provide, my mom was active in my school growing up…just a regular middle-class American family.
Most everyone would never have guessed that all throughout High School and my first two years of college that I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Because we (societal “we”) wrap depression up in a little box with black wrapping paper, tattoos, and piercings. We envision people who are depressed as those society would deem as gothic or rebellious when in actuality it comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. It comes in the form of a 5’5″ sorority girl and private school graduate with “everything in the world going for her.” In the form of a girl battling great inner turmoil than anyone can see because she doesn’t look how you would think a person with depression is supposed to look.
I don’t remember exactly when my depression started because it’s been in my life for so long My mom battled depression throughout my childhood and I remember having an overall hate for life by the time I was in 7th grade. I didn’t wake up one morning and just realize, “Whoa…I’m depressed…and way more unhappy than normal people should be.”
But, I do remember the moment that I recognized it.
I always grew up feeling lacking in some way, shape or form. In High School it was lacking in all of the ways that you’d expect from a teenage girl trying to find her place at a private school she was only attending because she was on scholarship. I felt lacking in what I wore, what I drove, my position on whichever athletic team I was attempting to be a part of…always falling second or third behind someone else. Never quite understanding why I wasn’t as good as the others.
I didn’t fit in with the popular crowd. I never got invited to go out with the “cool” kids and didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 17. I was almost always the understudy in drama club productions and, even though I graduated sixth in my class, I didn’t make Valedictorian or Salutatorian, despite my best efforts. I was always in the role of the “best friend” or the “other friend” when it came to dating. Think Something Borrowed and I’m Rachel, or Friends and I’m Monica when she was fat. Guys would talk to me when they wanted a date with my best friend.
I was very lonely in High School. My mom and I did not get along the best in the world, especially right before my Senior Year when both of my grandmother’s passed away within a 10 day window. My mom slipped into a major depression herself and I just found it in myself to keep going and do my best to get the hell out. I knew that I wanted out of my small town and was determined to make that happen.
I was lonely. I was sad. I pushed myself harder than I think I ever have to prove myself. I ached to belong and ached to be wanted or feel needed by someone. Things at home were a disaster and I spent a vast majority of my time in my room crying or at my then-boyfriends house and with his family.
When graduation came and college loomed, I knew in my heart that this was my time. I was getting out, would join a sorority and finally be one of the popular girls…one of the sorority girls…the pretty girls…the stick-whatever-stereotype-you-want-on-it girls. And for a little tiny smidgen of time, I was. But, there was always someone else. There was always someone better than me. There was always someone more popular than me, prettier than me, better with the boys than me.
I figured if that’s what it took to finally get “there” and be one of the popular girls, then that’s what I would do. Drink a beer? Sure why not? Sleep with a cute frat guy that all the girls thought was “hot?” Sure! Why not? Skip class because you just want to sleep late or can’t get out of bed because you’re hung over? Heck yeah! I like to sleep.
I spent a good, solid year searching for who I was in the bottom of a bottle. My parents knew what was up and knew I was drinking and going to the bars underage, but they assumed they had raised me better than that and trusted that I was being responsible.
When I decided I wanted to open up about this, I pulled out my journals from college and started reading. I found this entry from October 2005:
J came down the other day to go to Semi-Formal with me. Funny how that worked out. I’m pretty sure that he only came to get laid. Isn’t that what all of the boys think? I had one of the cutest dates there, though. But, when it was all said and done and the night was winding down, I was more jealous of the girls that were happy than anything else. I could see it on their faces. Sheer stupid bliss. What makes them so good? So much better than me? Why do I feel like this? Why do I hate myself and my life so much? I wonder if anyone would even notice if I disappeared…maybe my roommates if I didn’t come out of my room for several days. I cut myself shaving this morning in the shower and as much as it hurt, I almost felt relief. Like that little slice opened up enough to allow some of this misery to drip out. Maybe that’s why people slit their wrists. I’m too scared of blades though. I’d have to overdose…they say Tylenol kills you faster than anything.
As I sat and re-read those words, I still remember the feeling I had when I wrote them. I still have the scar on my knee where I sliced my leg open. I never could bring myself to start cutting, though there were times I thought about it. All I wanted was something-anything-to make me feel better. I’ve shared it before, but how I managed to never end up with alcohol poisoning, I don’t know aside from the fact that God had a bigger reason.
When my high school boyfriend and I broke up and he started spreading rumors all over campus that I was a slut and that I had an STD (which I didn’t, by the way), I bought three bottles of Tylenol PM and locked myself in my room. I opened two bottles and dumped them out on my comforter and started penning a suicide note. I was done. I was over it. I was sick and tired of hating myself when I looked in the mirror. I was sick of starving myself to try to be skinnier, tired of working all the time to buy clothes to impress people around me, tired of feeling like there was nothing in the world worth sticking around for if it meant that I had to endure the life that I was enduring.
Looking back now I see that things really weren’t as bad as I was convinced they were.
But isn’t that how it is with depression?
When I think back on that period of my life, I realize that my depression spawned from so many different things. My therapist and I have spent several sessions discussing this period of my life in great detail and I’ve come to see that most of it was a result of unacknowledged grief and anger. There was a lot of resentment in my life over a lot of different situations that I just never came to terms with. I never learned to love myself and placed too much emphasis on the opinions of others to find my value. When that didn’t come, it left me feeling worthless.
When I lost two people in my life that I cared about tremendously, I didn’t grieve. I picked up the slack that was present at my house and just kept moving. When our house burned down my freshman year, I didn’t grieve the loss of what I didn’t have anymore…I just buried my anger and kept on going. Everyone always told me, “the world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re having a bad day.” That stuck in my head in the sense that no one really cared whether my life sucked or not. Things were just to a point where suicide felt like the only option.
All I wanted…or needed…was just someone to come along and tell me all of the things that I wanted to hear: I was beautiful. I was needed. I was desired. I was wanted. I was chosen.
And one day, someone did. His name was Jesus.
I was saved as a child when I was 12 years old in the best ability of my understanding at the time. It wasn’t until I watched a boy I graduated high school with covered in blood after a drunk driving accident (that I was minutes from being involved in) pull through what should have been his death that I woke up. I hit my knees harder that night after I left the hospital than I ever had. I started to get my life back together. I stopped drinking and partying all the time and started joining in with some of the Campus Christian meetings.
When Josh and I got married in 2008, I went through a period of severe postpartum depression after Noah was born. My self-esteem hit rock bottom and I started once again questioning my worth and my capabilities as a mother. I cried and cried and cried about anything and everything. I wanted to run away from home and never return. If it hadn’t been for the sweet little baby that called me “mama” I have no doubt that those months following Noah’s birth would have ended me. Aside from being his mommy, I felt no sense of purpose whatsoever in life. No reason to be around…no one who needed me or cared if I was there or not. I was convinced that my husband would find another wife if I put an end to my own life and that Noah was young enough to not remember me and grow up with another woman as his mother.
I wanted more than that for my family. I wanted to find a reason to wake up every day, even if it was just a small reason. That’s when I found blogging and when I started journaling again. I started scrapbooking and playing around with graphic design (though very, very poorly and in Microsoft Publisher). I started reading books again and escaping into worlds and places that I had never been. Slowly, but surely, I started praying again and studying scripture again. For the longest time I had turned my back on God and blamed him for the things that I felt. It wasn’t until I opened up those wounded parts of me that he started to heal me and remind me that I had a much greater purpose than I thought that I did.
Like many cases of depression, mine has always gone “undiagnosed” until Josh and I started counseling in January. My therapist has diagnosed me with bouts of recurring depression and put me on medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I pop a little white pill every morning to keep me relatively grounded and less overwhelmed by the life I live. I have a prescription for medicine that aids with keeping my Panic Attacks under control. I keep a gratitude journal to constantly remind myself that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for no matter how stressful or busy or overwhelming my day is.
I still have a long way to go to get my anxiety under control and some days are much better than others. I recognize my triggers and so does my husband. I take more time out for myself and unwind now more than I ever have. I’ve made time in my schedule for things that matter to me. Like writing more frequently on this blog and creating Art Prints to raise awareness for Anxiety and Depression through #TheSemicolonProject!
Which is what this post and this heart dump about my struggle has been about…raising awareness for the hundreds of thousands of people out there suffering in silence. The ones walking around with that suicide note in their pocket just waiting on the breaking point and the moment in which they will call it quits for good.
Let me tell you a secret friend…
As part of my hopes in raising awareness for depression and anxiety…a portion of every sale that is made through my Print Shop will be donated to a worthy cause. I’m donating 10% of each purchase total Project Semicolon to continue to raise awareness for those suffering in silence with depression and anxiety. I’d love to have your support! You can share our shop information via any social media outlet (word of mouth marketing is so crazy powerful), purchase prints or even contact me if you’re interested in sharing your story here with a special featured guest post. Also, for a limited time ONLY you can snag 10% off of your entire purchase price in the shop using the code GRANDOPENING at checkout!