If Easter Sunday isn’t your holiday…

It’s Holy Saturday. This day of limbo usually doesn’t get a lot of limelight. It’s not the day God dies; it’s not the day He resurrects. But, it is the Easter holiday I most relate to.

The last few years, I have avoided Good Friday services, not because I don’t understand the importance, but because I feel like I live in Good Friday most of the time. Death and darkness are all too familiar.

Holy Saturday captures the limbo I usually live in- somewhere between dark death and resurrecting light-where it feels like God is dead, but He really is at work.

Continue reading “If Easter Sunday isn’t your holiday…”

New Year-Same Illness

The New Year is just around the corner. I feel the anxiety to figure out how to solve all my problems- especially concerning my illnesses. I want to commit to weekly yoga, daily meditation, a better diet, positive thinking, and so on.

The problem is when the ball drops at midnight and 2018 begins, I will still have an anxiety disorder along with depression and fibromyalgia. I won’t have all the answers for my healing. As much as I wish for some “new year, new me” motivation magic to wash over me, I am probably going to feel just as frustrated as I do now. I am trying to resist the temptation to guilt myself into another quick fix fantasy.

I just want to give us all permission to wake up January 1st and still feel stuck, sad, and anxious. Heck, I want to give us permission to panic at New Years Eve parties and just do what we need to relax that evening.

Instead, I want to take advantage of this new season to focus on being more gracious with myself. I want to give myself permission to fail, fall, and get back up again.

That’s all. I don’t need anymore expectations than I already try and put on myself. Actually, here’s to hopefully a new year with less shaming expectations and more compassion and celebrating the small things.

Surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder

Daylight Savings Time is upon us. It is cold, dark, and the holidays are just within reach.

I am learning that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD- what an accurate acronym!) is common for so many people- not just for people who are already susceptible to depression.

However, as someone who is in the midst of both a mental health and chronic illness struggle, it has been a major curve ball. Functioning has already been hard enough with the cold increasing my fibromyalgia pain. Sleep is already complicated enough without daylight savings time throwing off my circadian rhythms. Can we talk about how most of us don’t get home before it’s already dark?

Here are some ways I am  trying to counteract the effects of SAD this season:

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If You Love Someone Who’s Anxious

In honor of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to write to all of you who love someone who struggles with anxiety. I can’t speak for everyone who is anxious, but these are common themes that I have found helpful in my life and those around me.

  1. Celebrate the small things. Victories are victories are victories, no matter how small. Sometimes getting out of bed, taking a shower, or making a phone call can be the most impossible task. Taking these steps requires strength and courage to persevere. That strength needs to be recognized and celebrated!
  2. Help them find resources and their support system. No one can be all things to all people. Even if you are the world’s best human, you cannot be the only person supporting someone through their anxiety. We need community. We need doctors, therapists, mentors, etc. to help provide the resources we need to keep going. You are a better friend to us if you take care of yourself too.
  3. Steer away from well-intended but dismissive remarks. Although the following statements sound positive and encouraging, they often come off as belittling the reality and difficulty of  living with anxiety. These can include: “It’ll be okay.” “You’ve got this.” “Everything will be fine.” It’s much more comforting to hear: “I’m so sorry.” “This really sucks.” I’m here in this with you.” 
  4. Please give us grace on the bad days. Anxiety gets in the way of everything. Social events can be triggering. Every day errands can become overwhelming. Please don’t judge us if we have to back out of things sometimes. Some days, it is just too hard. It’s okay to challenge the anxiety and encourage us to try. Just please be understanding in the moments that we can’t. 
  5. Remind them they are worthy.  Anxiety is often accompanied by feelings of burden. I would bet 10/10 times anxiety is all wrapped up in self-esteem. Unfortunately, anxiety is still very shameful. Please remind us we are messy complex humans who are worthy of love and belonging just like everyone else.
  6. Let them be sad. Anxiety can be really debilitating. Treatment is hard. Some days can feel hopeless. Please let us grieve the effects of the anxiety. Please sit with us in the anxiety. I know it is tempting to try to pull us out of the dark. But, grieving is part of the process. It’s so much better when you don’t have to do it alone.
  7. Remind them they are more than their mental illness. Anxiety is so consuming. Sometimes, I feel like it’s taken over my whole identity. I need to be reminded that I’m also funny and smart. I need to remember that I have an anxiety disorder, but I am not my anxiety disorder. 
  8. Don’t put a time limit on their healing. I cannot tell you how often it feels like the world is tapping its foot, waiting for me to get my life together. Treatment varies for every individual. Often, the road to healing is long. There are so many expectations already to be happy and shiny and have it all together. Be someone who provides space and time for the struggle.
  9. Most of all, if you are anxious, hear me say: You may be a little fragile, but you’re also a freaking warrior. To those who love us, whatever your version of this- let your loved ones know! Yes, we are broken. (Also, who isn’t?) It doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of doing amazing things. We can still be intelligent, helpful, and useful while having anxiety. We still have something to offer.

I’m sure there are so many more things I could add. I would love to hear from others what you feel you need in the midst of your struggle!

One Year with Fibromyalgia

“So how long have you been dealing with this?”

“With fibro? A year.”

“Have they been able to figure out anything to help?”

“No, not really. I’m still trying to figure that out.”

Fibromyalgia has basically become a word synonymous with every day life. I forget that there are many who have never heard of it. I’m ready to share this story. I want to acknowledge all of the warriors who have persevered for many years with chronic illness. You give me hope to keep on going.

Continue reading “One Year with Fibromyalgia”

I’m not sorry

Does anyone else find themselves constantly apologizing for everything? If there was an Olympic medal for over-apologizing, I’m sure I would at least place in the top three. I’ve recently tried to be more aware of this ingrained habit. Honestly, it’s hard to recognize because it’s just the language I’m used to speaking.

  • During and after panic attacks- “I’m sorry.”
  • Groaning loudly because of fibromyalgia- “I’m sorry.”
  • Sneezing- “I’m sorry.”
  • Someone bumps into me- “I’m so sorry.”

I could go on and on. The problem is not so much in the moment as the fundamental belief that I have to apologize for basically existing. Continue reading “I’m not sorry”

Let’s talk about suicide.

The hard thing about suicide is it feels only socially appropriate to talk about it if it is in the past tense. I used to feel suicidal. I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts. I’ve experienced that.

Often, when a tragedy of this nature occurs, social media is filled with posts with hotline numbers, pleas to ask for help, and reassurance of the general worth of humanity. This is definitely a great thing. However, as someone who is still in the tides of struggling, I wish more conversations felt safe and possible around this. 

I can’t speak for everyone who has struggled with suicidal feelings/thoughts. However, I hope sharing my story can be educational and a helpful conversation starter for others.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about suicide.”

Do It Afraid

I’m starting to really challenge the thought that people are truly fearless. Or if being fearless is something to strive for.

I’ve been running from fear for a long time. My anxiety is fueled by all kinds of fears.

We are taught at a young age to run away from or avoid the things that make us afraid. In some circumstances, this is appropriate.

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Hospitalization: Umh, Can I just stay here?

No shoe laces. No belts. No essential oils because they come in glass bottles. No dry shampoo because the can is aluminum. No phones. Your door doesn’t lock. Yes, you can have your books. Here’s some socks. It stays cold up here.

Being an inpatient in the psych unit is like being on a different planet. Most of the rules that guide our every day lives don’t apply. There are no alarm clocks to push you out of bed. There’s no reason to worry about what you look like. Someone makes sure you eat and take your meds. No one expects anything of you.

There is no producing. There is no performing. No one is pretending here. We all know we are broken. Nobody asks “How are you?” Because nobody is going to respond, “I’m fine!” We are all just trying to get back on our feet.

Continue reading “Hospitalization: Umh, Can I just stay here?”

The Last Place I Expected

I don’t think anyone ever imagines themselves ending up as an inpatient in a psych hospital. I know I certainly didn’t.

If you look at my life objectively, it would seem that by most standards, I am a successful adult. I am (almost) 24 years old. I have a well-paying  job that is relevant to my college degree. I have been happily married for almost two years. My husband and I own a house. We have a savings account and an emergency fund. We have good credit scores, two happy dogs, and a lot of great friends.

For the past year, I have also been really honest about my mental illness in person and via social media. I post about anxiety, depression, attempts at self compassion, hard days, grief, etc.

I did not see this coming.  Continue reading “The Last Place I Expected”