As a child, I always over analyzed things. I didn’t realize how abnormal this was until two years ago. I don’t mean I over analyzed things like, “Did I choose the right answer?” for a test in school.
I over analyzed EVERYTHING.
I said sorry ALL OF THE TIME for things that weren’t even really my fault. I’ve always been a people pleaser, but in the past few years I have broken free of many of these tendencies.
Enter Fall 2014. A crazy, absurd, untrue thought entered my brain.
A “normal” person would easily diminish this thought. Well, I guess I’m not normal, but I’ve learned to accept that. This thought caused me to lose endless hours/nights of sleep and lose 20 lbs. (I”m not complaining about the weight loss, although I’ve gained it back plus more!)
My brain was so creative and clever. It twisted and turned this thought into the most bizarre scenarios.
I was obsessed with being “certain” and I wanted to prove this thought to be untrue. I was constantly looking for reassurance (compulsion piece of OCD) through my parents, the internet, my own brain, etc.
My perception of OCD was “that person wants to really organize things, or they want to wash their hands constantly.” Yes, that’s a form of OCD, but its not the only form. OCD manifests itself in several ways.
Thankfully, in the throes of this awful life season I found Jackie Lea’s blog and found ERP therapy which honestly saved my life. (https://jackieleasommers.com/
It’s funny/ironic that my friends and family have always teased me / been amazed by my ability to recall the smallest details.
My memory is very vivid. I can tell you what we talked about the first time I met you and what you were wearing.
I teach pre-k & K a public Montessori school with 800 students. I know 90% of the students by name.Now, I view this as an asset instead of a deficit. I’ve embraced this quirk. What makes us weird is often our greatest asset. Let’s embrace it. I view it as a strength instead of a weakness. Everyone is on their own journey.
Many people are shocked to find out I have an anxiety disorder.
I hide it well and so much of it is internal.
So, here’s what I am asking of you all:
Let’s break the stigma.
If you are a believer, let’s stop “spiritualizing” mental health. I think the church needs to address this issue better. One of the most hurtful things that was said to me in the depths of my journey was ” well, the devil is at work and anxiety means you aren’t giving this issue to God.”
Yep, I clearly wasn’t giving the issue to God even though I cried out to God so much.
My question for believers is would you tell a cancer patient ” Go get more chemo, that will cure your cancer” or,” insulin must really help your diabetes, just give yourself more insulin.” Would you invite a recovering alcoholic to the bar? “hey, let’s go grab a drink this week, you can handle just one drink, you went to AA this week after all.”
Anxiety disorders suck. They can’t just be cured by more prayer. Yes, God has helped me tremendously, but I’m not “cured.” I will always struggle, but thankfully I now have tools in my “toolbox.” If a person had cancer and went through Chemo, their cancer might go away.
Yet, they still would have residual effects and they would need to manage their overall health. It’s the same with Anxiety/OCD/depression.
Anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin. In the same moment a person can feel useless and paranoid with no explanation. Both definitely steal motivation.
My heart goes out to people who cannot afford treatment, or are in communities where their is little to no awareness about mental health….(refugee and immigrant communities to name a few)
Reach out to each other.
Acknowledge how connected we all are.
Ask the tough questions.
Don’t stop at “how are you?” Ask questions like “What was a challenge for you this week?” “How did you take care of you this week?” “Did anything make you laugh this week?” Also, please, please, please take the time to listen to each other.
If you are struggling, I’m here for you.
People can’t just “snap out of it”‘or “cheer up.” We all belong to each other and some people need a few more tools than others to navigate this big, beautiful, broken, messy world.
Things that have helped me personally:
– marrying the calmest person on the entire planet. I have yet to meet someone calmer than Thom.
-working out LOTS
-eating a well balanced diet ( a healthy fat, carb and protein at every meal)
-THERAPY (If you have OCD, exposure therapy is the ONLY therapy you should do. ERP therapy is the actual name)
-a daily mantra ” I am enough. I’m not alone. I’m deeply loved by God and others. I can do hard things.”
-admitting that medication wasn’t the worst possible idea. I’ve since weaned off of it. BUT, at the time it was tremendously helpful.
– I have found success with the combination of diet , exercise, and supplements. Yet, if you need meds, take the meds. Would you ever say to a diabetic “don’t take insulin today.” My favorite blogger Glennon Doyle Melton says “Jesus loves me this I know, for he gave me Lexapro.”
– a job that I love
-asking for help ( which is so hard for me)
– community ( friends, family, church, work, neighborhood)
-acupuncture – I don’t get acupuncture often, but it helped (it even helps me with spring allergies…)
Its scary to share our stories. Yet, I’ve never felt more liberated.
Your strongest, best version of you is waiting with arms wide open. We are all supposed to be free to live our fullest versions of ourselves. I want you all to know that whether its you walking through the desert, a family member, a friend, a colleague- that no one walks alone.
Just like we can’t go back to life before we knew how to walk, talk, read, or write. I cannot go back to life before Fall 2014. This experience will forever impact my life.
But I want you all to know things get better.
I thought I would never have children because of how crippling my anxiety and depression were in my deepest, darkest days. I had this fear that one day I was just going to “lose it.”
Take one moment at a time. Celebrate small successes. Accept what you cannot change and continue marching forward. I don’t like the phrase “stay strong.”
Their are many moments when I feel incredibly weak. Instead of staying strong, I’m going to “stay brave.” Our lives become liberated when we share our stories.
Movement happens when we acknowledge we belong to each other.
I leave you with this… You can do hard things. It might seem like nothing makes sense right now for you, but it gets worse before it gets better.
Think about remodeling a home. It looks like a disaster for quite some time, but in the end you are left with a beautiful result. I am bold, brave, and beautiful as a result of the hard, messy, exhausting work that I did.