How My Family Survived the Storm of Depression

Sea and beach with sky storm cloud, Over dark tone

Family is such a wondrous thing, isn’t it? We’re so interwoven with blood and memories and stories and even sometimes not with blood but with miracles or the precious gift of the resurrection of family by combining two. Our lives are swimming together in the same pool of life, sometimes in different depths and sections but in the same pool, nonetheless. So when good things happen or hard times hit, like ripples and waves in a pool, all members of the family feel the water changing.

In mine, it was like a big tropical storm hit our pool when depression reached its most severe for me a few months ago. Like such a storm, there were rains that preceded its arrival and indications of the strongest part to come, but everyone felt it differently and some never knew what hit them when the storm came. It left messes in its wake and confusion in the midst. And the clean-up process is still ongoing.

I’m blessed to say that my family has supported me beautifully in this most difficult of difficult times for me and that our community has worked to support them as well. It’s often misunderstood or perhaps even completely missed that the family of someone suffering severe depression deserves attention, too. Here’s how this storm affected my family. Here’s how people have helped. And hopefully, here, in between the lines, you will find help for your family or loved ones if a storm of this kind makes landfall at your family’s pool.

Effects on My Spouse

At the time things became clear that they were dire, my husband was faced with an ever increasing amount of worry and tasks before him. He had to research ways to help me. He had to consider financial costs of the help he wanted to get me. And, he had to consider whether or not I was at risk of taking my own life. He had to check in on me, like a lifeguard, a lot. All of this was on top of working and caring for our 5 children and household when I was unable to do so myself. These are heavy burdens to bare, some of the heaviest. But our community, friends and loved ones stepped in…a group of women that I meet with regularly brought meals to our family for two weeks straight while I was in an all-day outpatient treatment program. Our church family brought us money to help offset the cost of this program. My husband spent extra time with his disciple leader and men he trusts in order to make sure he had a place to share and get support. My mom flew in from Florida and stayed with my husband and our kids while I was in the hospital after I made an attempt to end my life. She hired a cleaning company to come in, she did laundry, she and my niece took turns picking up the kids from school so that my husband could visit me in the hospital and be free of these duties during this heart-wrenchingly difficult time.

In these ways our community lessened the blow to my husband’s whole world and lightened his load. He still had a lot of heavy weight to carry, but he had life preservers to hang on to when the waters got rough. He would also say that his faith was most definitely his life raft in all of this, and that is an unspeakable gift in itself.

Effects on My Children

Children are miraculous and resilient little creatures. Like new swimmers they find that they can do more than they thought they could when the water gets deep. We wouldn’t purposely throw a new swimmer into the deep end, but when they are forced in, most find that they can actually keep themselves afloat. That’s kind of like what happened to my kids, but like a child who doesn’t really want to be in the deep end, they showed their distaste and some even hid it.

My youngest went to be with family a state away for 2 weeks during this time. She is too little to understand what was going on at home and she is used to having mini-vacations with them. They provided her with familiarity, great bundles of love and lots of stability. She was pretty good with this transition but towards the end I am told she asked for mommy quite a bit. Our extended family provided a huge gift to us by loving on her and caring for her during this time.

My 10 year old stayed afloat by expressing irritability, some irrationality and asking lots of questions. Thank goodness his favorite person in the universe was with him (my mom) during the hardest times because she answered his questions, was patient with him and provided great distraction.

The teenagers were different. Most acted like the cool kids going off the high dive. No big deal right? But inside I know they felt unsure and scared. We were able to talk about things more as the storm passed but what they wanted and needed more than anything during the eye of that storm were honest upfront answers and to feel like everything was going to be okay. My husband and our extended family, as well as their peer groups, did this while I was unable to.

All the kids, on some level, internalized their fear and confusion. But with extra attention and TLC, reassurance that everything was going to be okay, as well as the ability to be open about it with others, they have come through the other side of the storm.

Effects on Friendships

Friends swim in our pool, too, right? Two of my closest friends in particular were dramatically impacted by this storm. They felt lots of fear and even anger. One expressed quite a bit of anger after my overdose, but we talked about it, acknowledged it, and I took ownership of the pain that it caused her.  One made lots of phone calls and felt like she needed to check on me all the time. She really wanted for me to talk about the nitty gritty of things with her and that was a little too hard for me, but those were her needs. We were able to talk about that and then support each other’s needs. Both friends were deeply impacted, no doubt about it. Honest communication with me and with my spouse throughout the storm kept them in the loop and gave them a sense of hope and optimism.

The Rainbow after the Storm Has Passed

Like so many storms, there is beauty in the renewal that comes afterward. Sometimes it takes the clean-up crew a long time to get things back in order, but often there are glimmers of beauty even in the midst or immediately after. For us, there was beauty in the way our community, family and friends surrounded us while our family was trying to stay above water. There was beauty for my family in the reassurance of my presence when I came home from the hospital. And there was so much beauty as I witnessed endless supply of concern, love and patience poured out, on and to me. While many people were sad, scared and hurt, right along with us, there was beauty in the coming together – kind of like a pool party on a perfect summer day but maybe no cocktails or music! And there is definitely beauty in the healing process, for us all.

*This post first appeared on The Home Living Wife as a guest post. I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to have my post featured on this beautiful site full of beautiful things and people. Please visit Kelsey’s blog today! You simple won’t find a more loving and sweet blog host as her.

Please: If you or someone you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out to LIFELINE.

I’m a Winner! DaySpring Friendship Gifts

Fotolia_78149150_XS.jpg

It’s not too often that I actually call myself a winner. Perhaps it’s a practice I should take up! But, today, I can say I really and truly am a winner!

Since I started my journey into bible journaling recently I have fallen more and more in love with the products and gifts offered at DaySpring, not to mention their Illustrated Faith line and site, which is absolutely the bee’s knees, in my opinion. (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that!) I love following DaySpring on Instagram and receiving email notifications about their upcoming promotions and new products. Everything is so uplifting and focused on what I want to be focused on…living an abundant life as a follower of Jesus.

While I have been doing all of this following and sometimes buying (more than I should actually admit) I entered a giveaway along the way. I’ve been entering quite a few giveaways in general recently since this mommy is on a budget and well, who doesn’t love getting things for FREE? I never really expect to win because SO many people are entering and what are the chances? But I take my chances when something stands out to me and lo and behold, I won something!!! I didn’t just win anything though. I won a beautiful collection of gifts. All the gifts are so wonderful and happy and completely lifted my spirits. I’ve been pretty sick recently and that has taken a bit of a toll on my overall mood. These gifts are so great that I wanted to show you here because you can get them too on DaySpring.com plus they are all great gifts for girlfriends or the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday.

Before I go any further, I’d like to let you know that DaySpring is not paying me for this post in any way. I received these gifts as a winner of a contest and I’m so thrilled that I wanted to share them with you!

Have a look at all the goodies and make sure to read to the bottom of the page because I have a surprise for you!

DaySpring Gifts 1
How adorable is this little sign? And I totally need the reminder!
IMG_5713.JPG
Isn’t this journal beautiful and inspring? I just want to write in it right now. The desk calendar is full of inspiration, too!
IMG_5704
The timing of receiving this cup couldn’t have been any better. I bought an insulated tumbler from DaySpring last week and I broke it (by dropping it) the first day I went to use it. Now I have a replacement!
IMG_5709
Okay, who doesn’t want to wear this? It’s a little piece of perfection to wear around your neck!
IMG_5701
Oh my goodness! This bag is perfect for bible journaling supplies or cosmetics. Bonus, it’s an adorable print with such an inspirational piece of gracing it.

I hope you didn’t suffer too much viewing these not so perfect images, but I am certain you could tell what a wonderful collection of gifts I received. Thank you, DaySpring!!!

Now, for my surprise! I’m all about passing on kindness. I love making the day of a friend or loved one with a little gift or surprise. If  you’re reading this, I’m considering you a friend and I want to share a friendship gift with you! Since I currently have several journals on hand all empty and waiting in a drawer for me, I’d like to pass on the beautiful journal above because “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created!” I love the design and this mantra.

If you’re interested in receiving this gift please leave a comment below sharing why you would like this lovely journal along with your Instagram or Twitter username (watch for my follow and please follow back so I can contact you via private message on the platform of your choice). You’ll get an extra entry if you decide to follow the blog. And, that’s it! I’ll pick a winner at random by end of day Friday April 15th and send you the journal on my dollar. US residents only, please.

Waiting Not So Patiently

File Apr 08, 11 33 03 PM

Funny how quickly a year can pass, even if it’s one of the most difficult years you can recall, you always arrive at some point where you say to yourself how fast the year flew by. At least, that’s what I’m doing right now…as I worry and reflect and try to keep perspective.

One of my very first posts on this blog (and that wasn’t all that long ago) was a post titled “Where it All (Sort of) Started” detailing an event that I now realize was a big red flag alerting me that depression had stuck its claws into me again (bad monster). That event involved the discovery of a spot on my lung and the process of going through finding out what it was and that it wasn’t something to be concerned about. There’s a lot more meat to it than that, but that’s the short condensed story so that I can get you up to speed.

Fotolia_70561530_XS.jpg
That’s the read flag that totally should have been more obvious than it was at the time.

Now, here we are and I’ve been sick recently. Quite sick really. Pneumonia. A shot in the rear, breathing treatments, steroids, antibiotics… I’m doing the drill, ya know? Trying to rest as much as I can during the days while the kids are at school and my husband has been awesome and super supportive in the evenings. And then today, I get a phone call from my doctor.

It’s a new doctor and I like her a lot. She wants to know if I know about this spot on my lung that their radiologist saw on the X-ray they took a couple days ago. Naturally, I said “Yes! That was scanned last summer (turns out it was actually last May) and they thought it was benign.” She proceeded to ask if I had the report…and while I have the CD from the scan, I couldn’t locate the actual written report. Dang it. She wanted to know if I remembered the size of the spot (lung nodule) and I couldn’t accurately recall. We formulated a plan that I would obtain the report and since I was going to see her in a few days for a follow-up I could bring the report with me then. And… she mentioned that the radiologist measured it at 9mm currently.

I was instantly alarmed because I knew that wasn’t the size it was almost a year ago, but I still couldn’t recall the exact size. I got off the phone and my adrenaline started PUMPING. I could feel it coursing through me as I got a wind of energy like I haven’t had in many, many days. I looked and looked through the CT scan report I have on CD but it didn’t tell me anything in actual words, it was all pictures, the black and white kind. Not helpful at all.

I am bad at waiting. Like really bad at waiting. This is ironic because I posted about waiting on the Lord on Instagram this morning. I spoke of how if we wait, His way will always be better than ours. You know, we need to try not to act on impulse and not seek out instant gratification constantly. That went out the window as soon as this event arrived. In fact, I didn’t even recall that post until right now as I’m writing. (hangs head)

I called the imaging center and all I needed to do was drive over, show my id and I could get a copy of the report. Guess who couldn’t wait until Monday but had to drive over during rush hour on a late Friday afternoon? Yep, me. I got that report in my hands as soon as I possibly could and now, I know the answer. The answer is that my spot was measured at 7mm 11 months ago. And, depending on the actual size of the spot now (which may or may not be 9mm because X-rays aren’t nearly as accurate as a CT scan) it’s either grown, or it hasn’t. Either way, I’m sure I’m going to need another scan…this will require waiting. Waiting for the insurance company to pre-authorize the scan, waiting for the scan appointment itself and then waiting for the results. See a theme, here? Then there may or may not be more waiting…I could go on.

Fotolia_81952292_XS.jpg
This is so NOT me right now, but who doesn’t love a picture of a bride? And she is obviously annoyed about something, much like me.

I’m trying really hard not to jump to conclusions but meanwhile I read a whole lot of articles and reports tonight that I somewhat understand. They discuss growth rates of nodules in the lung and what they may or may not mean and all kinds of other tidbits about lung nodules that you really don’t need to know…most of which I already read last summer!  I’m trying not to worry. I’m trying to give it all to God. I’m trying to understand that waiting patiently for Him and the answers is the only way to go if I want peace of mind. 

All this to say, it really could be nothing. And God wants me to be brave and courageous and just wait for Him…so I’m going to do my very best.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be Bold and Courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NLT

 

 

To Be Seen Again

One of the hardest things I have been dealing with these last few months is a sense of not wanting to be seen. I don’t want to be seen by the world, by the people in it, by even friends of mine and sometimes by my own family. It’s as if everyone is going to see all my pain and shame just by looking at me and even worse, they will see how much I’ve failed.

In my mind it’s like nobody has anything better to do than to look at me and judge me. Which we all know is a complete fallacy, a trick of the mind, but a really good trick because it feel so true.

The real truth is that I don’t go out in the world judging people. I’m not sizing anyone up. If I ever do it’s because of some sort of envy or admiration, which can be both good and bad. But in my heart, I don’t want to judge anyone and I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Additionally, most people are really only interested in their own stuff, their own life, their own weight gain or loss, their own hair, their own makeup, their own outfit and just so focused on themselves that they really aren’t looking at me.

On several occasions recently I’ve shared with my husband that I feel unable to do something because I just don’t want to be seen. It’s an undeniable feeling, it’s intrusive, it’s anxiety producing and just plain sad. He tries to understand. He’s good like that. But I don’t think I fully understand it. It’s part of this depression, anxiety, bipolar goop. It’s part of a shame I’ve lived with for too long. It’s actually quite self-centered. I’m truly not the center of the universe, or am I? 😉

I know a large measure of this is due to body image issues as well. Can anyone relate? I’ve gained A LOT of weight over the last year due to poor diet, inactivity due to depression and medications. For all the wrong reasons, when I am overweight I feel under-lovable. The more the weight, the less worth I have. And during this time, I need to feel loved more than ever. It’s as though if I’m not pretty on the outside, then you will know I’m not pretty on the inside, either.

Whether it be society, childhood trauma or self-sabotage, it doesn’t matter the cause because I’m stuck in the feeling of wanting to disappear, regardless. But somehow, deep inside me, I have to find the love. I have to find the love for myself, I have to find my identity in Christ and the courage to bravely face the world despite how much I feel like shrinking back inside myself or under the covers.

So, I’m working on that. I’m facing the world when I have to and sometimes when I don’t. Like when I went to the Go Blog Social conference several weeks ago, or when I went to a bible journaling meet-up this past weekend anticipating a small crowd (turns out there were only two of us there). And when I go to church on Sundays, I’m facing it. And I’m spending time in the Word again. I’m listening to worship music and spending time in devotionals and Bible study. I’m bible journaling. I’m listening to faith based audio books (never have done this before) and surrounding myself with His message. (If you are struggling with feeling beautiful and lovable I highly recommend the “You’re Beautiful” devotional that comes in the “Beautiful” devotional kit by Illustrated Faith. I’m working through this now and it’s touching me right in the most tender places of my heart.)

I’m doing these things and more (like starting to incorporate healthy eating habits into my life again). I am taking action. And I’m working to really embrace the fact that my worth is not completely tied to my appearance. I am seeking the knowledge that it can be okay for my pain to be visible and it can be okay that I am visible again. Maybe the world wants me in it? Maybe the world will be a slightly better place if I participate in it? Maybe, it will be good to be seen.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”.png

Confessions of a Bible Journaling Beginner

2016-03-23 11.11.29

You know I talk about messy stuff around here and let me tell you, bible journaling can get messy.

I recently (very recently) began journaling in my bible as a way to spend more time in the word and as a way to utilize my creativity to help me study, express my thoughts, feelings, emotions and prayers through art. While I went through a period of severe depression recently, I found it particularly difficult to connect with God. Once I found myself in this “recovery” phase of things (I’d like to think that’s where I’m at.) my natural instinct to draw near to him became apparent again. This was a joyful discovery for me after these past few months of feeling so far away.

But like most things that I do, it’s been a messy adventure. Both good and invigorating and, I hate to say bad, but well…just a little messy. Messy can mean a lot of things. Try to think of it, in this case, both literally and figuratively. That said, I’d like to share my confessions with you about what this beginning process has been like for me. Perhaps you can learn something from me. And maybe it will even encourage you to dive in to bible journaling yourself. You will find an amazing and rich community waiting for you on all social media outlets, but you can first look here  and follow the #biblejournaling and #biblejournalingcommunity hashtags on Instagram to find fellow journalers.  I think you will undoubtedly find that bible journaling is a beautiful (and sometimes messy) way to express your faith.

Confession No. 1

I’m kind of a scaredy cat. I am timid when it comes to writing and making art on the pages of my beautiful new journaling bible. (You can find the one I have here, if interested. I’m not getting paid to tell you about it and there are lots out there.) I totally hesitate to try new mediums and to really take over the page. I’ve discovered that I’m terrified of getting my pages wet now. This is because they wrinkle and crinkle easily (although there are methods that supposedly help with this (like using this stuff called Gesso), I have not mastered these techniques fully yet. I have ruined pages on the flip side by getting a page too wet and causing my work to run or smudge.

I did this here:

FullSizeRender

And here:

FullSizeRender (2)

Confession No.2

I’ve spent way too much money on my new hobby. Like most people who get excited about new things, I wanted to try out all of the goodies and tools and well, everything. I still do, in fact. But if you can try to use some restraint it will probably serve you well! (Your bank account will definitely be happier.) It’s really hard not to indulge in all of the great products you see others using, but time and time again I hear bible journaling experts say to just start with the basics. I certainly have the basics now…and then a little more. In the hopes of helping another beginner out there I would recommend getting a journaling bible, some Sakura Pigma Micron pens, a couple regular pencils and some good colored pencils, but even Crayola Twistables work great. You can work your way up from there, perhaps a little bit more slowly than I did. I have to recommend Illustrated Faith as a great resource for bible journaling supplies, tools and treats, simply because I love them. They also have super fun ways to embellish your page (I’m waiting on the arrival of some stickers and die cuts I ordered from them now) if you aren’t that into drawing, painting or lettering pages all by yourself or if you just want to fancy things up. I’d show you my stash of stuff, but that would be embarrassing.

Confession No. 3

I’m totally insecure about my pages. This is the confession that is a little bit harder to put out there, but it’s true. I can rob myself of the joy of journaling by comparing my work or end results to others – others who have some mad art skills, training or have been doing this for a long time. None of this comparing business is good. It takes away from the whole point of why I’m doing this in the first place. I have images in my head of the greatness I could create only to fall way short of that expectation and then I feel all sulky and gloomy. That’s not what God would want for me to come away with after spending time in the word and it’s not of Him. To combat this, I intend to work diligently on spending more time in prayer and devotion and allowing my bible journaling to reflect that, not what I think the finished page should look like. There’s a real battle here, and I think other beginner bible journalers can relate to that.

Here’s wishing you a happy bible journaling adventure and don’t forget, it’s okay to get messy!

If you’re a beginner, tell me what your confessions are? If you’re not a beginner, how about sharing what obstacles, if any, you had to overcome when you got started? And if you’re not either of those, say hi anyway?

Small Victories Sunday Linkup

Feeling Heavy: That Depression Kind

I started this blog with the intention of utilizing it as a therapeutic outlet. Then I got caught up in the idea of getting a lot of followers and visits and views and I forgot to keep doing that, in a way. So today, I’m gonna write about what’s really going on with me in my head, because I need to share it, and it might as well be with you, right?

I can feel this depression thing hanging on or hanging on to me again today. But wait, I told you I had turned a corner previously…I still think I have (I haven’t had a suicidal thought in quite a while it seems), but today, I feel heavy and up and down and irritated and sad and the sad feels big. I woke up feeling positive. I did a little shopping and enjoyed that. I put together a new flower arrangement for our front door and that was fun! But slowly, as the day crept on, the heaviness grew heavier and my ability to cope with the loudness of my home and youngest child (she lives with autism and can be quite loud) lessened more and more.

In order to get through it I isolated. I went to my room and locked myself in, literally, and did some bible journaling. I find this to be a great refuge for my mind and it does my soul good. I liked my finished product even though I am noticing that I am comparing my entries more and more to others recently. (red flag) It really did turn out quite nicely. (How I wish those self-loathing thoughts would seriously and completely disappear forever!) Then I tried to be present with my husband and youngest in our living room, but I felt like I had to tune out…I focused on social media and reading blog posts of others and colored some of a drawing I recently created. I was completely isolated in my mind. I truly just couldn’t cope. I wanted to run away. I wanted to go back into my bedroom and lock the door and never come out.

Something has shifted in me recently. I had experienced a couple weeks of what I now know was hypomania and naturally my doctor adjusted my medications. I want that hypomania back. I want to feel happy or excited or something. I don’t want to feel this heavy heart that’s beating in my chest tonight. I’m scared of these feelings. I don’t want to feel them. I don’t want to go back to that dark place. Please don’t take me back there.

I don't want to go backto thatdark place. (1).png

 

I’m going to try really hard to remember that although this has been happening more frequently lately, it doesn’t mean I’m there, stuck in the darkness. I’m going to remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and help is on the way. This heaviness may lighten up. I’m going to try again. It’s Easter tomorrow and we celebrate the resurrection of our savior, perhaps tomorrow will be a resurrection for me as well.

There, I got it out. That felt good. I’m glad I wrote it down.

Where Did My Voice Go?

Fotolia_86843005_XS.jpg

I’ve been pondering the symptoms of depression today. I spent time reading some heart-achingly beautiful posts written by women battling the beast and it reminded me of a simple but huge thing that I lost during the worst of my own recent battle. In fact, I’m still fighting for it, because depression stole my voice and I’m wondering where it went.

When the depression first crept in I could feel my voice quieting. I felt a sort of kind of buzz that made it that much harder for me to hear it. I suppose it was like a heavy white noise. As the disease progressed I felt the trapping of my voice, as if my chest was covered in big heavy chains and I was unable to get enough air to clearly use it. Occasionally, I caught a breath and tried to let someone know that the air was getting thin but my voice did not have the strength to say it loud enough. No one heard me. Was it because I was too quiet or was it because my voice had already slipped away? I’ll never know.

Depression steals so many things from us, but not having a voice leaves you alone inside yourself, a scary place to be during that darkness. Losing your voice leaves you without your lifelines that you may have held on to each and every day to keep you just above water. I lost my voice. I lost my ability to communicate with God, with my husband, with my family and my friends. I lost my ability to feel heard and understood. I lost my voice and it was painful.

I wonder where it went? Was it hiding under the covers somewhere close to me when I slept and lay comatose in my bed? Maybe it was hiding under my pillow, on the cold side. Was my voice lost on that vacation I took with my husband not too long before my symptoms began to worsen? Maybe it had washed out to sea? Perhaps it flew up to catch the falling stars I witnessed while gazing at the moon from that perfect Florida beach. Where was it? Was it trapped in one of those bins we have in storage that contain the photos and memories of our children’s younger days? Perhaps it was when the leaves fell from the trees in the fall, maybe then my voice was blown away with them.

We practiced a meditation in the outpatient partial hospitalization program I participated in this past October, it was called “Leaves on a Stream“. The gist of it is: you watch your thoughts float down a stream on leaves, just acknowledging them and allowing them to float by. I don’t think I had any voice left at this point, but if I did… the remaining pieces definitely went down that stream. (Side note: I actually really liked this exercise. If you click the link above you may find it something you would like, too.)

But that stream must lead to some kind of loop because I think some of the pieces and parts of my voice are coming back. I’ve begun to blog and create art and journal. I attend therapy at least once a week, if not more. I have had moments of excitement and joy, no matter how brief, it is a relief to finally have them.

I talked my teenage daughter’s ear off on the ride home from her school today. After I realized I had been talking an awful lot, I halfheartedly apologized. I sort of chuckled and said, “Sorry, I haven’t talked much to anyone today.” And then it struck me suddenly, I hardly talk to anyone at all during the day. Some days I may not talk to a single soul (out loud – actually using my voice) until the kids or my husband arrive at home, whichever happens first. So I realize, I may not be exercising it much.

But I’m exercising it more and I’m fighting for it. Actually, it may be fighting for me. Perhaps that sneaky thing snuck itself back in to my soul and will get louder and stronger as the healing and recovery continues.

But I still wonder, where on earth was it?