A Past of Pickles

In my recent visit to Ohio during the portion in which I was with my parents, I did a whole lot of just sitting around their house being a mom to my two kids without daddy around. During that time, despite the mommy brain distractions, I was able to do a lot of reminiscing. One particular time, I was sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for my 3-year-old son to make the tiniest tinkle in the potty. While he watched another episode of Daniel Tiger on my tablet, I decided to use the time to write my thoughts on the biggest breakthrough I’d had on my mental health journey.

Here were my thoughts:

So this parenting stuff really isn’t so bad. This life I have is amazing. I lose my temper and often just want to escape. I still struggle with anxiety, depression, a mood disorder, all my autoimmune issues, and now my more recently diagnosed PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. That’s a new story for another post another time). I get hurt and sad. But my life keeps getting better and better. God has had mercy on me and shown me grace. I see it especially if I think about where I used to be. How far I’ve come.

Especially when I think about high school.

No. Not that. Too complicated and depressing to even think about. Too scarring even.

At least, that’s the way I used to look at high school.

For so long, I’ve looked back at my high school years and seen nothing but pain. I got a broken heart so many times. Boyfriends, friends, not friends…so many put downs on who I was. Including who I was in Christ.

Those last two years of high school were especially painful. My junior year of high school I switched from being home schooled through a Christian private school all my life to a vocational school through my local public school, studying cosmetology. It was just in time, too, because my mom had just been diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer that summer. I was not prepared for the “real” world.

Long story short, I became more aware of the value of my faith in God. I made it known, too. Not in a loud obnoxious Bible thumping “The end is nigh!” kind of way because I still had a low self esteem after all. But in a quiet fashion. I was rejected by most of my school mates and eventually a long time friend (complicated story). I was told that people called me “God girl” behind my back (though I’m proud of that today).

Point is, 9th-12th grade I felt like each year was worse than the last. I see a pattern that led to me feeling a sense of happiness when I was finally in college.

So, up until [a couple months ago], I looked at high school in pain. It would give me a terrible pit in my stomach, especially when I thought of all the relationships I had during those four years, including those at the “Christian” school.

I had decided not to touch it until it made more sense why I would get that pit in my stomach. I found ways to forgive certain people from during that time, but there was still a sense of pain and resentment.

Then, a couple of days before I left for my trip to Ohio to join the kids, we found a huge box in my son’s unused closet. It was one that had never been unpacked when we moved to the house almost exactly four years ago.

It was full of memories for me. It had old music books from my flute days, as well as vocal repertoires and piano books from college. There were stories I had written about me, my friends, and the Monkees as a “tween,” pictures from my childhood through high school, and so many other random things. I had many good laughs and smiles going through all of that.

Then, there were the poems. Poems I had written all through high school. Poems about my depression, poems about the small joys, poems about lost boyfirends…I sat there solemnly reading every single one. Eventually, I started crying. When I finished reading, I went away to privately sob and cry out to God for a few minutes.

It was then that I realized a huge truth. A big discovery for me.

The pit in my stomach caused by high school was not a result of the people in my life during those years that hurt me. It was not old boyfirends, lost friends, or rejecting peers.

It was depression.

A little after the middle of my freshman year of high school, when I was 15, I was first diagnosed with clinical depression. I don’t remember if I was on meds right away or not. I do know I was on and off a couple of antidepressants throughout my high school years. I also know that as early as 11, maybe even younger, I had already experienced panic and anxiety attacks and gotten some therapy. I was also blessed to be raised by parents who taught me that mental illness was just that. An illness. not a weakness. And that it was nothing to be ashamed of.

However, it doesn’t matter the experience of those around you. A diagnosis of depression does not mean overnight understanding. Being raised to know there is no shame and to know how to get help doesn’t mean you automatically cope with it or share it with others. It does not mean you don’t experience shame.

Being in high school only added to the difficulty. Though I didn’t walk around bragging about my depression, I didn’t do well at hiding my emotions when the sobs wanted to come. I cried with my head buried in my arms in front of my friends at the Christian School. Many times they came to put an arm around me. But too often I depended on that. I think I subconsciously sought after that comfort from everyone and continued to be more open about my overwhelming emotions.

Now imagine that on top of all the other hormonal changes we go through already at that age! I started to learn that not everyone could handle it. I started to learn that not everyone realizes it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If I couldn’t even grasp my own illness, how could anyone else who’d never even been around it or aware of it grasp it? I began to overwhelm others.

Over the rest of those years, I became dependent on having a boyfriend. Over the course of each boyfriend, I would end up overhwelming them with my dependancy on them being the “meds” for my depression. As I gave my heart away, I also opened up deeply about my depression. Each time my heart got given back in pieces, I shut myself off more and more from others. I cried less in front of others for fear of being a burden and making things awkward.

To this day, I hate crying in front of anyone. I even hate crying in front of my own husband. The one boyfriend I ever had who immediately accepted and put up with my mental health after an anxiety attack in his car two weeks into dating. The man who took me in his back seat not to make out, but to pray with me in true faith to calm my attack. I can’t stand crying in front of him even after over 10 years of him never failing to comfort me in my tears.

Going back to high school and the rest of it in general, my depression fought me and trampled me almost every single day of it. While figuring myself out in general as every teenager does, it was too hard to figure out the depression with it. And typically, even with parents who guide well in seeing the signs and getting help, teenagers don’t really open up to their parents about what they’re going through. At least in my experience because, you know, I knew everything well enough, right? I did not have a great relationship with them in high school until sometime into my senior year.

My biggest testimony is that the reason I am alive is because of my faith. My God. He was my source of comfort and intervened several times when I didn’t even realize it. He gave me the gift of writing, poetry, and music. All three of those got me through and still do.

Why do I share this whole story with you? It is my deep desire to encourage and inspire others with the gifts God has given me to show that there is a way to get through. That no one is alone. The best way I can do that is by expressing exactly what I’ve gone through and learned.

This day in age depression is running rampant. Yet it is still so misunderstood and ignored. In adults, our military, teens, and even kids. I hear too many stories of suicides in all walks of life.

So what can you do? How can you be proactive? Whether you are going through it or someone you know is, these are the key things I think you should know.

1. Know the signs.

Loss of interest, unexplainable crying, sense of hopelessness…the list is endless really. But pretty much anything that seems out of the ordinary as far as character or behavior is reason for wariness.

2. No one is ever alone.

There is plenty of support out there. Support of trained professionals and support of those who have been through every feeling. We have all had our tough times. And then there is the One who will never leave you or forsake you.

3. Never be afraid to reach out to someone.

When I said I was realizing there were many who didn’t know how to handle my depression, this was not me encouraging to hide away all feelings. It was a take on how a confused teenager was handling her own depression. It is an example of how many need another person in their life to do the stepping up, as I did have some do. So if you’re noticing someone with the signs, take a step to reach out to them to even just help them find the help they need. But the person going through the depression also has to take initiative to follow through. Get that help you need.

4. This does NOT indicate weakness.

No, this doesn’t hit home overnight. Yeah, it’s hard to not feel weak or see it as weak. But this is just a phrase you have to repeat over and over to remind yourself. Tell yourself it is all ok. Because I promise it is ok. And it will be ok.

So stop overlooking this depression epidemic. Be aware of what is going on around you. And be especially mindful of teens who might be going through this in the cruel world we live in. High school is cruel enough as it is.

And if you are a high schooler who might be going through similar things as I did, be encouraged, love. Guard your heart and your mind. Use your gifts to release and talk to those you trust most. You don’t have to do this alone.

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I am ashamed

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These past few months have been a battle. It was a well fought battle. I was strong. I persisted. I lived. And I had God and His army appointed to me by my side.

But I lost. It was a battle that I denied too long. I wasn’t prepared mentally to win. Through the search of a way to win, I got lost.

It’s ok, though. It’s…relieving, actually. The battle is over, and a new one begins. With God still by my side.

“What was this battle?” you’re asking. One that I’ve been fighting all my life pretty much. And one that God has used in my life to make me who I am today.

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Depression.

The strongest army I fought was me, myself, and I. That is why I lost.

For so long my testimony in my fitness and nutrition journey has been how much happier I was. I thought I had defeated my depression once and for all. So when I started noticing symptoms coming back, I denied them. I pushed them away.

They kept coming back. As if to taunt me. So I began to become ashamed. Back to thinking that it was all in my head. I knew better not to let it back in my head, right?

I began to blame my circumstances, which, to an extent, didn’t help. I began to search for some other answers. Kept saying I needed to see a doctor. But I kept putting it on hold because I was afraid of what they’d say. I was tired of “everything came back normal; so let’s put you on this or up that dose and see you again in 6 months.”

I’m tired of the roller coaster ride with meds and doctors. Bad reactions to that med, body adjusting to this one. Doctors treating me like they weren’t taking me seriously. Like I was just another crazy patient looking for something to be wrong so I can blame something else.

So I kept fighting. I fought HARD. I refused to let the devil take me in.

But I still did let him in by believing the old lies I used to tell myself or hear people who didn’t understand say.

“Just lean on God.”

“Just be happy and smile!”

“You can get over it!”

“It’s all in your head!”

“You’re being weak!”

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I put on a mask. It was a mask that even had me fooled. What kind of health coach can help others when her own depression haunts her? Or who lets her anxiety fly through the roof? Or who has to take meds or see a doctor? I mean, come on!

A couple of weeks ago, I realized I just couldn’t take the way I felt anymore. It was time to get in with a doctor. My autoimmune symptoms even were getting worse and worse. Even though I was still keeping up with my exercise routine. Even though I was still keeping up with my nutrition. It just wasn’t getting better.

I was fatigue, dizzy, emotional, my joints were aching. I even had one week where it hurt to move my left hand and fingers. My eczema was flaring up like never before.

So I made an appointment with a new doctor. I specifically went with a DO instead of an MD. I had read that they are more open to other alternatives and take more into consideration your nutrition. And this time I planned to go prepared with a list and a determination to be up front and straight with him. No beating around the bush anymore.

My appointment was last week. Happened to be the day I came down with whatever virus my kids had haha. Anyways, I had my list. And eventually I flat out told him that I needed to say something and just get it out. I told him that I’d had a hard time getting established with a doctor out here because I never felt like I was taken seriously. I told him that I was always afraid of being completely honest about what I truly felt about what is going on. And I told him, “I’m not so much looking for relief as I am answers.” I just want answers once and for all. Not a bunch of meds. Not something to blame everything on. I trust the doctors and their knowledge, but only if they trust me.

Best thing I’ve ever done. He kinda changed his air a bit. Like he thought, “ok, this one’s serious.” He took care of me. And made me able to accept what was really going on right now.

The antidepressant I was on my body had, as per the past meds, adjusted to. After 3 1/2 years on it, it was time to wean off and try something new. Again.

But he’s not fluffing off other things going on. He realizes that I do have other issues. He’s first treating my depression because it is clearly the worst issue right now. I see him again in a few weeks after weaning on to my new meds.

Here’s the truth that I realized. No, I’m not happy about the medication situation. It has been ROUGH weaning off my meds, and I still have a ways to go. But, I have still come a long way since the last time I had to deal with a deep depression.

In fact, I feel free. I have let go of my mask. I let go of my shame. In fact, I am ashamed that I was ashamed. 

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It doesn’t matter how healthy of a lifestyle I might have. Depression is still a real illness. And while my healthy lifestyle can and HAS helped, there is still an aspect to it for me in which I need medication. I need it to help stabilize some of the imbalance of chemicals I’ve been dealing with all my life due to it being in my genes.

Will I ever be med free? I hope to. But for now, I accept this journey. Because now I have more tools than ever to properly FIGHT the battle. There still is an aspect that I CAN control, and I will. With God’s help and the growth He’s blessed me with in my healthy journey, I will.

So, in all honesty, what kind of coach would I be if I put on a mask? If I hid my struggles? Hid my humanity? Hid the fact that I’ve been through and still can go through the same hard times as anyone else? Not a very good one, I think.

In these journeys, it is so incredibly important to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! Because this runs in my family, I was raised to know when to seek help. When I was 15 and sobbed uncontrollably for no particular reason, my mom took me to the doctor. That was when I was first diagnosed with a clinical depression.

So many people have not been as blessed. I have seen and heard of too many lives lost because they were ashamed to seek help. They were ashamed to open up. To reach out. They thought they were alone. I’ve been there! I’ve felt so alone so many times. But let me tell you, you’re not!! These “irrational” things you feel have been felt by many, and ARE felt by many.

While wanting to blog for so long, it’s been hard because I had so many ideas I wanted to share. Then I would get so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t type them up. But it really all comes down to one thing for me. My mental health journey. The original reason I created this blog.

I want to help others the way I have been helped in my mental journey. And I have gifts that God has blessed me with that do that very thing.

Music. Oh, music! Who doesn’t have a song that they’ve been touched by? One that said what they felt? That opened their eyes to a new light?

Here’s a song for inspiration to fight.

Or this one to remind you that you’re not alone.

Writing. We all find that one blog post or that one article or that one book that just felt like a miracle. The one that speaks every single word that makes us think “That is 100% me!” or “That is SO inspiring!”

Beauty. Cosmetology. We all have a beauty service we like that makes us feel incredible and beautiful. Getting our hair done, getting a manicure or pedicure, a facial. Men, too! Come on, now. Don’t lie!

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^Nutrition and fitness. There is a saying that food is the most utilized antidepressant and exercise is the most underutilized one. Truth, baby. And you really don’t know this until you have improved your nutrition and fitness to a life changing level.

All of these things have helped me in my journey with mental health. And God has made it so clear to me now why He blessed me with all of these things. They are the way He gave me to help build His Kingdom. Because true happiness and victory always lead to Him through Christ, His Son.

The last thing I would like to say is this: Please, seek help. If you have dangerous thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, remember that you’re not alone. Reach out to someone. Anyone you feel comfortable with. There are 800 numbers for things like this, too. Never ever ignore the fact that you might have a clinical depression. Whether it’s PPD, PTSD, or just a regular depression, it is never something to take lightly. SEE PIC BELOW.

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Love and blessings to you, my friends.

[Edit] I realized I wanted to go deeper into the things that I’ve felt that led me to realize my depression had gotten worse again. That way those that aren’t aware may be and those that feel alone are reminded they’re not.

My emotions have become irrational. I’ve wanted to cry about everything and nothing. It’s created irrational fear. Even fear of being around other people. A legit, real FEAR. Not just worry or being shy. But a real anxiety. I’ve felt closed off. Alone. I’ve lost interest in taking care of my house. I’ve lost interest in things I’ve usually enjoyed. I’ve wanted to just stay closed up and hidden in my house. I’ve felt like death would be welcome…

There is a real physical effect, too. That lack of desire to get out of bed? That’s not just from feeling so irrationally down. That is legit fatigue. Even after a good night’s sleep, good eating, and good exercise, still feeling like my body cannot move. Because it hurts. It is weak. Fatigue. Some days I’ve barely been able to do the dishes. Feed the kids lunch. Feed us dinner. Talk.

These are only some of the symptoms, too. Everyone goes through a different degree and amount of symptoms. So I encourage you to further educate yourself apart from what I’ve informed.

Just remember that no matter what you’re feeling or going through, you can lean on and rely on God to get you through. That is what I’ve done. He is the reason I live today <3.