I’m super excited to start a new series on my blog! I have been inspired by many women throughout my life that have helped me to strive to be a better person. I want to share them with you. So, I’ve decided to start a series where I can share them with you.
The very first person I have invited to write a post inspires me with her attitudes about mental health and mental wellness. She is so open, honest and humorous that it makes me happy to read her Facebook posts. She is very gifted with words. You will LOVE her!
Marika is just trying to figure out this life thing. She works through anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress daily and has been since the premature birth of her daughter. She shares her journey in the hopes that some part will ring true to another woman, that hope will be seen. Marika writes during her times of deepest heartache and isn’t afraid to talk about the hard stuff we all need to hear. She lives with herhusband and two children, loves being outdoors, and creating joy in life. You can connect with her and learn more about her journey and life via Facebook or Instagram.
I’ve written this line four times and promptly deleted it. With each word my anxiety rises a little more. My heartbeat races a little faster, my eyes shift back and forth across the page again even though I already know exactly what is there. And then I delete it again, because I feel my insecurities creeping in. How am I any different? Why has anyone looked to me to talk about anxiety and depression while I am still in the throes of it? Who am I to say anything?
But that’s exactly it. I answer my own questions in posing them.
I am me.
Depression and anxiety are part of me at this point in time, but they do not define me. I am so much more.
Each of us feels physical and emotional pain at different levels and in different ways. Similarly, we hold and exhibit depression and anxiety in different manners as well. Some similarities may be present, but as with any experience, it is our own.
I have flashbacks and trouble breathing when I look at my children but have no problem walking through the lobby of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where my daughter fought to breathe and we called home. The woman who lives around the corner from me may have anxiety which presents in both rational and irrational fears which keep her home, but has no idea where it comes from or why it’s so difficult to get out of bed at any point during the day. A young mother across town, or across the world, may be struggling to see herself under newly permanent and significant changes and responsibilities. She can love her infant and the life she made and yet have no feeling or reason to eat, to breathe.
My point is that we are different. That is okay.
The road which I am on has not been a short one, nor is there a definite end in sight. There is, however, a little lighter step in my trudge. There is a little more sunshine, a new path ahead of me to wander on if I feel so inclined. There is hope.
A year and a half ago this was not the case. I felt very much alone, pulling and scraping to find any connection or piece of love. Grace was not a word I understood at all, nor was willing to learn about. I managed to get through a moment at a time and that was good enough. Every day was spent pumping every milliliter of breastmilk that I could force out of my body and dreading the ring of the phone. Hours spent sitting by a plastic box and hundreds of tubes which by the grace of God kept my daughter alive. My heart tore at every beep and code blue, any sterile environment and the sound of the high frequency ventilator. I fell to the floor. I could not move, could hardly breathe. Something else was forcing me to do that, I know not what. My head spun and eyesight blurred, yet the world around me kept on as if nothing had changed. I could not comprehend it.
After months of standing statically, things started to improve a bit. Over time my daughter became more stable and eventually came home. That was a glorious day, and yet the flashbacks and anxiety only increased. After two additional hospitalizations and a few more months, I finally realized how low I was. I couldn’t name my emotions: most of the time I didn’t even feel them. I lived by the breast pump, by my daughter’s breathing pattern and changes, and my son’s breakfast demands. The daily necessary appointments that she had were the only thing that got us out of the house. She was on strict isolation protocol, but it wouldn’t have mattered. My husband didn’t know his wife anymore. My son didn’t have a mother. All I could do was fight for my daughter, but I had no idea who I was anymore or how my anger and quick temper were so uncontrolled, or how to love my children.
I took a breath. I asked for help.
I don’t share our journey or my personal struggle to ask for any sympathy. I take responsibility for where I was then and what I do now to work with these and improve myself during both the better and more challenging days. There is no comparison between my story and someone else’s, because our struggles are our own. I do share because I want you to know where I was. That from this depth, there was hope. There was and is a future. There is more.
The longer I spent working with my therapist learning about myself, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and postpartum depression (which continued on to be longer term depression), the more I came to realize how frequently these things are not recognized, are seen but not acknowledged and left untreated, are brushed under the carpet or laughed at. If you remember nothing else from this post, please remember the following.
–It’s okay. None of these make you any less of a person. They do not define you (even though it often feels like it). All of your feelings are completely valid!
–Postpartum depression is much more common than we talk about. Did you know that on average, 15% of women with LIVE births suffer from postpartum depression? That’s about 950,000 women every year, based on 2007 statistics. This is more than the number of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer or suffer a stroke, combined. This does not include women who suffer from a miscarriage or still birth, have other perinatal mood or anxiety disorders, or those unreported. (postpartumprogress.com and cdc.gov )
You’re not alone.
–Ask for help. If there is any question, ask. No feeling or trial is too small. Nothing is insignificant. You are not alone in the struggle, nor do you have to work or power through by yourself. Talk to your doctor. Talk to a trained therapist. If the first one isn’t a good fit, find another.
–Medication is an option, but it is not right for everyone. Research, discuss, try one if you feel it could be beneficial. Remember that there is no one med fits all. For me, small doses of medication are part of my ongoing treatment and help day to day at this point (and I have not always used it), but it is not right for everyone.
–Regular exercise and healthy, balanced nutrition are all part of getting help. Your body and mind need these to function. In our world of instant gratification, we expect things to work overnight or for one thing to be the answer. This is not the case, and we need to remember that exercise and nutrition support not only the more immediate recovery, but also longer term health. (adaa.org)
–Some people simply won’t get it. Set boundaries where you need to, but practice extending grace to both others and yourself. Teach them as you learn more. Be up front about what you are doing and why, but allow yourself space to walk away and return to work on a relationship when you have more tools.
–If you do not find yourself identifying with any of my words, that’s okay too. More likely than not, someone you know is struggling with some part of these. Be a support and a resource for them! Try not to judge the person or the situation. Don’t tell them something is irrational, not to worry, or that it will all be fine. Instead, empathize, be a listening ear. You don’t need to fix the problem. Make it known that you are willing to listen, to love, to offer support where they need. If you are the kind of person who is a “fixer”, then offer a specific thing like making dinner and include the day. I.e. “I will bring dinner on Friday the 14th, what would you like”? These are applicable for anyone in a challenging time, not just those struggling with anxiety or depression. (lds.org)
And above all…
Remember that joy is created through moments of being present, not perfect. There is always hope. And there is always a hug from me.