I Felt Joy

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The other day something strange happened. It almost alarmed me.

I was in the car with my two youngest children. I had just picked up my son from school. Many days he is grumpy and tired after school. He tends to be a bit moody. But this day, he was in a quite pleasant mood and I was grateful. As we began to make our way home I noticed some things that I had not seen in what felt like an eternity.

There were blooms on trees. They were pink and white and a deep rose color and on some they were just beginning to burst out. There were trees in full bloom that I had not noticed the day before. It was a stark contrast to see these beauties next to the many trees without leaves that line our streets right now. The colors were beautiful and almost glowing. I pointed out the first one I saw to my son. I said, “Look! A tree is blooming. Spring is really coming!” And he smiled.

I never thought that Spring would come. I got lost this past winter, lost in clinical depression. I was lost in a big dark deep cavernous hole. The hole got so deep that absolutely no light shined through. All I could see was darkness and all I could wish for was escape. It became so dark that I thought there was no escaping and that things like flowers, trees and plants would never come to life again. The darkness took over me and I tried to end my life.

But somehow, I’m here. I made it to now. And somehow I am seeing light again. And somehow, the trees are blooming. Miraculously, a gift from God, I saw these trees, really saw them, and I felt joy.

I felt a joy that lasted more than a moment or a flash. I felt joy at the prospect that spring was actually really coming! With that joy came hope. Hope for the spring and renewal of my spirit. And with that hope came faith, faith that God was at work all this time and pulling for me, holding on to me despite my mind’s tricks and and travels into the darkness.

Joy is lasting, joy is pure. Joy is something that fills your heart and soul and gives you peace. Joy is a gift. Joy is seeing things with clear vision again. I’m just so very grateful that I felt joy.

 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

 

This post is being added to the #momsterslink linky!  Check it out here!

I’ve also added this post to the #sharethejoylinky!

Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com
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Wordless Wednesday: Bible Journaling Week 1

I’ve begun a new journey with Bible Journaling. This is my first week, so go easy on the expectations. I’m finding that this process brings more depth and meaning to my devotional time and I love the creativity outlet. My journaling Bible has really thin pages, so I haven’t figured out how to keep the pages from wrinkling when using watercolors or adding water to watercolor crayons, so please forgive that as well. In the vein of this being a Wordless Wednesday, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking!

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It Really is Bipolar Disorder

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I was diagnosed just a few months ago. I suppose I always had a hunch. Others in my family history have dealt with this disease. But I thought I only had major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (along with it’s friend social anxiety) and ptsd and oh yeah, I’m a recovering alcoholic, too. (This long list just made me laugh a little out loud, I suppose it’s because I have an odd sense of humor. . .I think it’s called gallows humor.)

I’ve experienced symptoms of these other mental health issues since my teenage years. I have always been told what I was dealing with was major depressive disorder and major depression I have always had, off and on. I’ve had 3 hospitalizations now, 4 if you count the outpatient partial hospitalization program I went through a few months ago. But maybe it wasn’t until I became more knowledgeable about the symptoms of these different disorders, or until I noticed the times when I overspent money and/or times I felt super euphoric for no real reason or for the littlest reason only to come crashing down in mood quite rapidly. I’m not sure exactly when, but something in the back of my head thought it was possible. Something else in my head said, “No way! You don’t do the extreme things that are said to be symptoms of bipolar disorder.” Even my psychiatrist said I didn’t meet the criteria when I mentioned it to him a few years ago.

But this Fall, when the most severe symptoms of depression worsened and I began my descent into the pit, my therapist at the outpatient program I mentioned previously confirmed my concerns, then in November, the doctor at the hospital where I was an inpatient confirmed my concerns. And finally, my new psychiatrist after the hospitalization confirmed it as well. Bipolar Type 2 was the general consensus.

Something in me really didn’t believe it though. Something in me didn’t want to have that diagnosis. Something told me that I was going to face a whole new set of stigmas and I did not want to deal with that. Something in me said, no way.

But I took the new medications. I hated the new medications. We switched around some of the medications. We’re still switching around some of the medications. And, believe it or not, I think I’ve turned a corner and I don’t feel like dying, most of the time. (Praise God.) But something different is going on with me now.

I’m waking early in the morning before my alarm clock goes off. (This is really odd for me, as I am a sleeper!) I can’t fall back asleep these days. I now have new found hobbies and interests that are consuming most of my thoughts and time. As in, I can’t stop thinking about them and all the things I want to do and what I should do next and all of the ideas are flooding my brain at once. My mind is racing, as if it’s trying to catch something and I’m running with it (and running really isn’t something I do). It’s not simply that I have a lot of thoughts, I have a lot of thoughts all at once and they are grand and filled with the greatest of optimism and I feel high. My days are full somehow. There are so many things to get done! But guess what? None of them are things that I really should get done. If it weren’t for my meds I doubt I would go to sleep at night at all here recently, at least not until very very late. Additionally, I may or may not be spending money on things I shouldn’t be…and rather impulsively.

I added all these thing up in my head and I did a little research on “what hypomania feels like” and it turns out, I could so relate.

I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday. They took my blood pressure. It was unusually high for me, not dangerously high, but high for me. I found this interesting considering how I’ve been feeling. I told my doctor about all of these symptoms I’ve been having and yep, she thought I was definitely experiencing hypomania. She believes I’m in what’s called a mixed state right now, because I still have depressive thoughts and moods, but am also experiencing the hypomanic highs. She’s made a few adjustments to my meds (again) and now I’m a little worried I’m going to feel sad all the time again.

And truth be told, I’m also a little sad that it’s true. I really do live with bipolar disorder and I have been for a long time. I suppose there is a little bit of grieving that goes on with any new diagnosis, a grieving for the health we had or the health we thought we had, whether it be true or not.

The good news is I finally know what I’m dealing with and I honestly have no reason to attach any kind of stigma to myself. Living with bipolar disorder is no more shameful than living with arthritis. Unfortunately, if I’m really being honest, it’s going to take me a while to believe that in my heart, because for some reason I feel a little more faulty and a little more broken right now.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling right now, please reach out to LIFELINE 1(800)273-TALK for help and support.

 

Go Blog Social: Mommy Leaves the House!

I’m at a blog and social media conference called Go Blog Social right now as I type this. I couldn’t wait to get this post started. It’s such a fun day for this mommy! I wanted to share some of the photos with you ASAP, I think it’s the best way to tell you about the day. It’s inspiring to be here and a big day for me as I think it really signifies a corner I may be turning on my road to recovery from this long bout of depression I’ve been enduring. So…this is a good thing, indeed!

 

What better way to start the day than with balloons and a beautiful city, my city, in the background?

 The sponsors and vendors at the conference were mostly local, all unique and so fun!

   
   

And we had so much fun designing pretty and celebratory photoscapes utilizing the party in a box supplies provided by Fete Box. (I think I just made up that word: “photoscapes” …maybe?) I love how these photos turned out! 

   
   

There were plenty of highly coveted giveaways to boot! Like this beauty below, which unfortunately I did not win. (Insert sad face.)

    

And we left with goody bags that included a free print from Curio Press. This was mine and I think it’s right on, don’t you?

  

All the presenters and speakers were great but my most favorite session of all was the very first one, a mini photography workshop led by photographer Allison Corrin. It was incredibly informative and filled with inspiration, light and goodness. I’m so anxious to put into practice and apply what I learned!

  

I certainly didn’t cover it all here but I bet you can tell that this was just what I needed! Connecting with other bloggers and members of this community gave me a new sense of purpose. I have more tools to pursue my dreams and navigate the new territory I’m currently exploring! Successful day Go Blog Social!

Check out and connect with some of my favorite vendors and sponsors of this fabulous event!

Acorn Influence @acorninfluence

Curio Press @curiopress

Indie Olive @indieolivepress

Hand & Land @handandland

LocalE @shoplocale

Jenna Lynn Designs Planners @jlynndesignery

Ocean & Sea @oceanandsea

Leigh and Marie @leighandmarie

The Bloom Academy @thebloomacademy

She’s Mine, My Daughter with Autism

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So I have this little girl, she’s mine. She’s wacky and wild. She’s vivacious and bold. She lives it up. She’s absolutely beautiful and when she speaks it’s the cutest thing I may have ever heard (aside from my other children speaking when they were little). She’s perfection in so many ways, a true miracle and part of an amazing story that is yet to be written.

She’s all these wonderful things and she is the most terrifying and challenging thing I have ever dealt with.

She came from the womb of a very young woman who came extremely close to ending her life through abortion. She was fed drugs and alcohol as she grew in this woman’s belly. And she was given to my husband and his late wife upon her birth. She was born with autism and a miraculous little brain that does not process things the way most brains do. Three years later and she came into my world with joy and beauty and an energy that cannot be contained. She calls me mommy and I am her mommy.

She has severe autism, is verbal and has a light about her that you’ve never seen before. She wants to hug everyone…and I really do mean everyone. She wants at least three hugs from me before she goes to bed. She also wants to grab every single thing that looks like it might be the least bit interesting…which is pretty much 95% of all the things in the world. She would wander far away in public, well more likely run away, if not self-contained in a shopping cart while running errands. She’s heavy now and getting heavier every day. She kicks me innumerable times a day while I change her clothes and diapers. She hates to have her hair brushed or touched which is a problem of almost epic proportions for both her and me. She has more energy than any child I have ever laid eyes on. She is 5 yet nowhere near potty-trained. (This not uncommon in children with severe autism.)

She screams and shrieks any chance she gets, for good and bad. She giggles with the ferocity of a child gone mad and then she giggles with the tenderness of a small child, too. She runs away from me at every chance she gets. She is satisfied with an activity for 5 minutes at a time maximum. She sees the fun and joy in the smallest of things and makes toys out of candy wrappers and rubber bands like nobody’s business. She loves to shake things, which includes un-inflated balloons, doorknobs, tags, bags, cups, bowls with tiny things in them, anything that can be shaken, she’ll shake it. She also likes to get jello legs when she doesn’t want to do something which means that mommy has to pick her up or pull her along in a very non-graceful fashion. When she wants something she wants it NOW. She has little to no ability to wait. She also loves music, to sing and to be sung to… and to dance. She has amazing rhythm. She also slams doors and opens them, a lot. She’s particularly fond of turning lights on and off while you are in the bathroom, too. This can be a challenge at a time when most people would like to make sure they see what they are doing. And how she loves baths and the pool and could play in and with water for days on end. She’s been asking about summer since September.

She’s mine. I need to be a good mommy to her as well as the other 4 children in our home. I really need to be a superhero. I need 8 arms and elasticity like Elastigirl in The Incredibles. (Remember her, she’s like the best mom ever!) I need permanent earplugs implanted. I need strong arms and legs and a back that never hurts. I definitely need to be taller because putting her in a shopping cart is a big chore, if she fits, when you’re a short mommy. I need patience, an endless supply of patience intravenously infused would be nice. I need help. I need for my soft heart to not be hardened and to be not too soft, too.

She’s mine and I love her to the ends of the earth. I can tell I do when she is sick or hurt and mommy mode kicks into full gear. I can tell I do when I talk to her about nothing or something for the 100th time in a row. I can tell I do when I bathe her and clothe her and get her something she is obsessed with for the 20th time that day. I can tell I do when I sing her 50 children’s songs while waiting for the bus. I can tell I do because I die a little when she says she loves me or lays her head on my shoulder. I can tell I do because I can tell you that she’s mine.

I’m Kind of a Mess

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I’m kind of an ever-lovin’ mess. You know, the completely disheveled kind, that can only manage a few things in a day or their mind explodes? That kind.

I really don’t want to be this way, I want to have my stuff together. And I have the best intentions of doing so…but then the morning comes, the kids are off to school (and that can be a big ordeal, let me tell you – youngest child has severe autism – need I say more?), my psych meds leave me all groggy or my fibromyalgia pain has kicked in, or both…and there I am trying to muster the energy to do anything. I get really stuck at this point, trying to determine which way to go and what to do next.

Today, I took care of something really important that took about an hour…and then I did my new devotional and then, I closed my eyes. Two hours later and it’s like most of my day was gone which makes this mommy grumpy. I’m supposed to give myself some slack for this kind of thing, I’m supposed to go easy on myself as I’m in the process of coming back from a long dark horrible bout of bipolar depression. But my head, says things like, “You’re a loser. You’re ridiculous…you need a nap after being up for 3 hours? Why can’t you get your act together? You have a ton of laundry to do…don’t you think your family really needs you to do that for them?” And then, naturally I feel like crap.

That crappy feeling, well, it leads to more crappy feelings and then I’m sitting here at the computer telling you all how crappy I feel. It’s kind of a bad deal. And actually, I just chuckled at myself and sighed…because I guess I’m on this roller coaster of ups and downs. And, I did do a couple of other important adult type things before I got on this computer that I’ve been putting off for a long time. So that’s good and positive and I should be a little bit proud of that. Sometimes, the little steps are big steps and the little steps take you to the same destination as big steps…and my current destination is recovery.

I don’t know if I will ever feel like one of those people who “has it all together” but hopefully someday I’m going to feel proud of myself and proud of my accomplishments, big or small, without downgrading them. Hopefully, I’m on the road to being me again and that road is just going to have its moments, good and bad, just like everyone else’s does.

How to Determine if You’re a Bad Mom in 3 Simple Steps

So I have this struggle…ha, that’s a lie, I have a lot of struggles. But a big one is feeling like I’m a bad mom. Perhaps it’s a side effect of depression, a genetic predisposition or a lack of confidence…all of which could really be the case, but what it comes down to is trying to figure out if I really am a bad mom. If I could disprove that theory, then maybe, just maybe I could believe that I’m not a horrible mother and that I am doing something right, maybe not perfect, but not bad.

This may take a little audience participation, which could prove difficult since I have a following of like 10 (at best) on this blog (in all fairness, it is brand new), but hopefully somehow someone will read this, help me find the truth and perhaps find the truth for themselves if they ever have any of this same type of worry. Although, I seriously doubt any other mother ever feels like she is not good enough, right? That’s ridiculous.

1. Define a “good mom”. (Be realistic and honest. For example: being a good mom does not equal making every birthday party or celebration a Pinterest worthy one. We’re talking basics.)

My thoughts on this: she feeds her children, clothes them, provides them shelter and provides healthcare when needed (unless of course this is truly not possible then this does not make her a bad mom, I do not think a mom who is living in poverty is a bad mom simply because she is living in poverty). She also works to meet her children’s educational, spiritual and emotional needs as best as she is able. Plus, she loves her children…you know, like love in action and love in emotion. She gives them affection. She gives them attention. She does the best she can.

2. Evaluate yourself against the above definition.

Okay, I do these things, but not perfectly all the time. I sometimes get fast food for their dinners. I sometimes (more often than I would like to admit) don’t give them as much attention as they might enjoy. They do have shelter. They have clothes. I get them to and from school and extra-curricular activities. I even attend said extra-curricular activities when applicable and possible. I try to address all emotional needs and involve extra input (therapist, counselors, role models, etc) when possible, but I haven’t done this perfectly. Like the time my son went to therapy and his father (my ex-husband) sabotaged the whole thing so the therapist disowned us (really) and then his father said he would not ever and I could not ever take him back to therapy of any kind. UGH. On to the next thing… I do try to meet my children’s spiritual needs (introduce them to faith, etc.), but I don’t do that perfectly either. I do love my children, I really do. I give them hugs and kisses (even if they get wiped off) and I tell them I’m proud of them and remind them that they are loved. But again, I don’t do any of this perfectly. Oh, that last thing in the definition above…”she does the best that she can“… okay, okay, yes, I do the best that I can, even if my best some days is someone else’s worst .

3. Come to  your conclusion.

My thoughts: I’ve got room for improvement, but by my definition above, I am not a bad mom. This is a serious relief. I don’t want to be a bad mom, I want to be a good mom and an even better one tomorrow than I am today. I want to be proud of the mom that I am and I don’t want to have any more regret.

Here’s where the audience participation comes in and is really important. I need to check myself because if I’m truly not a bad mom, I need a little validation. Tell me, what’s your definition of a good mom? Do you ever feel like you’re not a very good one? Do you think my evaluation is accurate? Spill it, okay? ‘Cause this mama needs to know.

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This photo came from The House of Hendrix blog and I couldn’t resist sharing with you here, because maybe, even in my imperfection I am actually a good mom and maybe you are, too. And if you don’t worry about it…well…maybe you aren’t? 😉

 

P.S. I’m participating in the #ManicMondays linky via RockinRandomMom and the #abitofeverything linky via The Anxious Dragon. Check them out!

RockinRandomMom
A Bit Of Everything

Mental Illness Steals My Weekend


As I browse through the streams of Twitter, my feed on Facebook and posts on Instagram, I see the ever present enthusiasm for the weekend every single Friday. Quotes like “TGIF” and “It’s Friyay!” are prolific. But instead of joining in the joy, something in my soul sinks as the weekend approaches each and every week.

I used to join the masses in the anticipation of a weekend where the family gathers and activities we are unable to do during the week become possibilities. Movie nights, quality time with the kids and my husband, church…all used to be a part of the little joys I used to look forward to. But something has changed and I don’t like it. In fact, I very very much don’t like it.

Depression and anxiety can be very selfish. They have taken things from me. They have taken my sense of peace, confidence and ability to enjoy my family.

When the weekend comes I am filled with anxiety over what is expected of me, albeit these are normal things, they invoke a new kind of stress. I feel mixed emotions at the thought of watching a movie with the family as a racing heart and chest pain has become customary during this time. I fret and worry about attending church as I am required to be present and seen by people that know me…people who can see all the weight I’ve gained in recent months and people who care for me, yet because of the fact that they have eyes and know me, they feel foreign and intimidating. I panic at the thought of the possibility of needing to care for my children on my own for any extended period of time if my husband has to work or coach a basketball game.

During the week, when the kids are off to school, I can make a trip to Target or Hobby Lobby without the dread of being seen. For some reason I get the feeling I’m just one of the masses and can blend in, almost invisible and shielded from the scrutiny I imagine in my head. But during the weekend, with kids in tow, I am visible and open for judgment, in my mind’s eye.

It’s a horrible feeling, dreading my weekends. There’s guilt and shame attached to it all, too. Thoughts like “Who in the heck doesn’t like the weekend? What kind of mother wouldn’t want more quality time with her kids? What kind of Christian dreads going to church?” plague me.

I look forward to the day, that must be coming, that I once again enjoy the weekend. It will be a good day, indeed.

*I’m entering this post in the #Iwouldlikeyouto linky hosted by And 1 More Makes 3. Muddle over and check it out!*

When He Feels So Far Away

This depression thing has hung on to me like a plague. It started seeping in last Summer and grabbed on to every cell of my body and mind by the Fall. In the midst of my darkest times I have felt so utterly alone – in a dark cavern in the deep pits of the earth below it’s surface – kind of alone.

A friend from church embraced me one Sunday (when I actually made myself go, only because my husband was teaching) and said, “I don’t know why God feels so far away during times like these, when we need Him most, but I know it feels that way.” And it was such an amazing relief to hear a fellow sister in Christ acknowledging that He does, truly, feel so infinitely far away, even removed, in times of severe depression. It’s mind boggling really.

One of the tricks to feeling connected to God is to spend time with Him – to dive into His word, to pray, to meditate on His teachings and His love. But when you’re depressed, you simply can’t do these things. It feels like lifting a 2 ton truck to open your Bible. Some may argue that you can actually do these things, but I would argue that it sure feels like you can’t and that it may truly be a fact of the condition. If you are able to muster up the strength and lift that truck, the words may seem foreign or completely without meaning. Our brains simply can’t comprehend the writing on the page.

With a God as loving as ours, why then does He seem so distant in our darkest hour? I believe it’s the illness, not our God. I believe its the disease and not His actual absence. I believe that God isn’t pulling away from us, but our minds are running the other direction. I believe that He is ever present, but our cord of connection is cut by the illness. He is not to blame. We are not to blame. The illness can take all of it. The sickness of depression is strong and can carry that burden without any buckling of the knees. It’s okay, pile it on. It’s depression’s fault, entirely.

God knows we will be afraid and completely discouraged at times, so He tells us in His word that He is always with us, He will hold us and strengthen us. It doesn’t say that we can actually feel it, but that He is doing it, whether we feel it or not.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Do Not Fear

He also knows that our own thinking can’t be trusted. That’s especially true for those of us battling mental health issues, but it’s true for everyone. That’s why he reminds us of this in the Bible. Our understanding and comprehension of all matters, including mental illness, is flawed. So we must trust in Him.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding…

It’s easier for me to talk about this today, as the worst part of this depressive episode seems like maybe, just maybe it is behind me. I’m not certain if I had read this post during the darkest times, that I would have been able to apply it or grab onto it. But I know it’s truth, it’s His truth, and I hope and pray that maybe it will get into the hands of someone who is suffering and that maybe it will give hope and light and shed truth on a time in which our head is full of lies.

I believe God truly does hold us when we feel most alone.

I leave you with one of my most favorite pieces of scripture. It truly is the picture of being pulled out of the pit of depression and set again on solid ground. Not only is this His word but it’s His promise. I have seen this promise fulfilled in my own life in the past and I hold onto it today as I put my trust in Him and not in my own understanding.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

Anatomy of Suicidal Thinking

You may or may not know that in November I made an attempt to end my life. (It feels rather bold, unusual and uncomfortable to start a post that way.) Since that event, and before, it’s been a long and difficult road to trudge, to say the least.

In October my husband and I became keenly aware that the depression was becoming severe. I was becoming more frequently plagued with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. (Are you thinking self-harm is just for teenagers? Well, you’re wrong.) In an effort to stave off the beast, I was admitted to a partial hospitalization program where I spent the day with other struggling folks and a therapist for group sessions Monday through Friday for three weeks. I learned a lot, felt very safe there and enjoyed the structure, as much as a severely depressed person can enjoy these things. 

I guess I felt like I was supposed to be all better after that, but I wasn’t and that was frustrating. I began my search for a therapist and went on a couple visits but I felt just as bad as I had before I started the treatment. Efforts to diagnose me accurately and to find medication that would be therapeutic were rather conservative. It’s clear now that neither the treatment nor the medication protocol were as aggressive as they could have been or should have been. 

I was diagnosed with bipolar II, a diagnosis I am still a bit unsure of, as I think I might be of the rapid cycling nature, but bipolar none-the-less. All my life I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, along with a few other friends like anxiety and ptsd. 

On November 8 I ended up in the ICU after taking a very large amount of a medication I had on hand to treat anxiety that is also used to treat high blood pressure. I spent a couple days there recovering from the effects of the overdose and then I was transferred to the hospital’s psych unit for a couple more days. Since then I have finally found a therapist I think will really work for me, a good psychiatrist and I’ve been on a long journey of medication trial and error.

All of this to say, that after my experiences and with the knowledge I have obtained before, during and after treatment, I came up with what I believe to be a pretty accurate depiction of the anatomy of suicidal thinking. I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, therapist or anything close…although I did major in psychology in college, so please treat this info as just what it is, a sick person trying to better understand their illness. 

And so, here it is…

   
 
Like my very professional hand-written document? Me too. 

Some may think that my starting premise of a negative or triggering event is inaccurate, but for me this can include the transition of actually becoming depressed rather than a specific event or trigger, that in itself can be the trigger. But, I think that once one is already actually experiencing depression the negative event or experience can be something that stands alone to set suicidal thinking in motion. Additionally, this can happen multiple times or you can be stuck in one long dreadful period of suicidal thinking.

“Normal” or healthy individuals won’t get stuck in the stages of self-loathing/negative thoughts. They will move back to a normal thought pattern. Those of us struggling with mental health issues can get stuck here or at any one of these stages or move on down the road to suicidal thoughts.

What do you think? How accurate is my depiction to you or for you? If you don’t experience a mental health issue maybe this will help you understand part of the thinking and experience of a loved one who does. 

I look forward to hearing your feedback and thanks for reading! I’ll be here, muddling through the muck of all this messy stuff, waiting!