Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 5 of 5)

The conclusion of my Mental Illness Awareness Series is centered around thoughts and lessons I have learned in the time since the previously shared manuscript was written, which was two years ago.  I wanted to touch on some feelings regarding my mental illness, my continued struggle with needing medication, the added benefits I’ve enjoyed from a changed diet and exercise, and the importance of finding the right therapist. Continue reading

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Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 4 of 5)

Welcome back for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series.  Today I am sharing the final portion of the manuscript, which you can get background information on at the beginning of my Part 1 post.  As explained in Part 2,  this was originally written for women with Christian beliefs, particularly Latter-day Saint women.  My hope is that you will find this post helpful regardless of your religious background.

I have not made any changes to the original manuscript, which was completed two years ago, making my battle with mental illness close to ten years now.  It’s hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long, but each year I have greater insight.  I look forward to sharing my current feelings next week, as a follow-up to this final portion of the manuscript. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 3 of 5)

If you’re just now joining me, as I share this five-part series outlining my journey with mental illness, please check out the more detailed information about this series in the beginning of the Part 1 and Part 2 posts.  Seeing as how I did not edit the original version of the manuscript in any way before posting here, the blog that I reference towards the end of this post is in regards to this blog, First You Must Begin. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 2 of 5)

Today I am sharing part two of my Mental Illness Awareness Series, which is the continuation of my journey with mental illness.  Background information can be found in my previous post from this series.  The short story is that the following is taken from my portion of  an unpublished manuscript that was designed to bring increased understanding of mental illness. Continue reading

Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 1 of 5)

A couple of years ago, I had a friend approach me about contributing to a book she was writing.  The purpose of her book was to bring increased understanding and awareness to the topic of mental illness.  As she began to write it, she felt impressed to include other women she knew who suffered various degrees of mental illness.  Having been open with her about my battle with mental illness, she invited me to contribute to her book.  Unfortunately, that book has not been picked up yet.  However, feeling passionate about the purpose of her book, and the cause as a whole, I have decided to share my portion of the manuscript here.  My part was designed to comprise an entire chapter, which seems a bit much to process in one blog post.  As a result, I am breaking my part of the manuscript into a five-part series.  The first four posts will make up the chapter as it was written nearly two years ago.  The fifth, and final, post will comprise my added insight that I have received since that time.  Being that I have been diagnosed with having Bipolar II disorder, this series will wrap up on March 30th, which has been set aside as World Bipolar Day.  I recently learned that this day was chosen because it is Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, and it was believed that he probably had a bipolar disorder.  Being that my mental illness was not first diagnosed as Bipolar II disorder, I felt it better to refer to this series as Mental Illness Awareness.  I am all too familiar with a broad spectrum of mental illness symptoms.  So, without further ado, I share with you my Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 1 of 5)…

Mental Illness Awareness

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My husband will tell you that my battle with depression began the moment that I learned my mom had Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer.  While this news shattered my childish belief that my family was somehow exempt from tragedy, I consider that a time when devastating circumstances merely had a negative impact on my customarily cheerful outlook.  I believe my true battle with depression began the first few days following the birth of my eldest child, Abigail.  That’s when I began to notice the crippling effects of depression in my daily life.

Abigail arrived six weeks and one day early.  We were, of course, completely caught off guard.  Her early arrival came unexpected with no reason or cause.  Every mother has a dynamic birth story; mine was comprised of confusion, excitement, fear, and anticipation.  In less than 24 hours, I had gone from questioning the authenticity of each contraction to delivering my baby girl after four pushes and several failed attempts to slow down her premature birth.  The moment I first heard Abigail cry out, I felt like I could take on the world.  Giving birth was the most natural high I had ever experienced.  It was everything after that point that didn’t live up to my dreams and expectations of childbearing.  In my mind, she was supposed to be cleaned, wrapped, and laid sweetly in my arms.  Instead she was poked, prodded, and then briefly held next to me for one quick picture and a peck on the cheek before being whisked away to the NICU.

It was three days before I even had the chance to hold my sweet baby girl.  Even then, she was so fully wrapped in cords, intubation tubing, and padding that it hardly felt like we were connected.  Of course, she still melted my heart in a million ways.  She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  In the moment, everything felt so surreal that it wasn’t until later that I realized how gypped and jaded I felt over the whole affair.  I grew up with this idea of childbirth being a painful process that melted away the moment you held your baby.  But I didn’t get to hold my baby the moment she was born.  Instead, following her delivery, I sat alone in a hospital room waiting for my epidural to wear off so I could be cleared to see my daughter in the NICU.  I thought, “This is not how it was supposed to go.”

First Hold

Around the two-week mark, Abigail finally joined us at home.  That was when I started to notice that I didn’t feel like myself anymore.  Motherhood will certainly change you, but this felt different.  I felt isolated and numb.   The feelings of joy and zest that were once commonplace in my life were few and far between.  Everything began to wear on me.  I started to shut down.  It got to the point that my brain couldn’t even process what it should be doing, let alone trying to complete such a task.  I saved any ounce of energy I had for the needs of Abigail’s survival alone.  To make matters worse, she was both colicky and dealing with acid reflux.  I spent the larger portion of my day feeling defeated.  I became jealous of my husband who got to leave for work.  Then, upon his return home, I would be resentful of the smiles he would instantly receive from our baby girl.  Again, I thought, “This is not how it was supposed to be.”

Before Abigail had even turned one month old, my husband saw the situation for what it was and knew I needed help.  I was losing ground fast.  At the time, he worked close to home and was able to come home for lunch.  He left in the morning and gave me ONE chore to complete before his return for lunch.  Just one.

We had a baby bottle warmer – one of those things that first-time moms think they can’t live without.  The water inside needed to be changed.  My one chore was to dump the water out and fill the cup back up.  I didn’t have to clean it.  I didn’t have to do any special treatment to it.  I had to dump the water out and fill it back up.  Guess what?  I DID IT!  I felt a brief moment of excitement having actually completed a task.  My husband was so proud of me.  He sincerely congratulated me and I enjoyed the satisfaction that came from that moment.  This is what my life had come to.  Prior to Abigail’s birth, I was successfully working full-time as an assistant to the CIO of a mortgage lending company and now dumping out water had become a great accomplishment.

As I sat in my 6-week follow-up appointment, my doctor asked me how I was feeling emotionally.  I was so ignorant to the idea of postpartum depression (PPD) that I hadn’t even considered it at that point.  Upon hearing his words, I began to cry.  This whole time, I had figured it was just “baby blues” – those short-lived feelings of emotional instability that most moms feel after childbirth as their hormones adjust to non-pregnancy.  My understanding was that PPD was designated for those who were so miserable they wanted to harm their babies.  That was not me.  I loved and adored my baby girl, even though our connection felt strained.  Though, admittedly, I almost walked out on her one time just to stop from hearing the endless colicky crying.  It was my emotional state that was the issue.  It was my lack of desire to do anything.  It was my realization that I was not finding joy in any of my usual activities nor was I accomplishing the basic daily tasks.  I used to be so upbeat and cheerful that my brother would joke, “Have a bad day, Sara.  It builds character.”  Based on his belief, I gained more character in the first few months of my daughter’s life than the twenty-five years prior combined.  I had postpartum depression.

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Check back here next Wednesday for Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 2 of 5)

Lift Another’s Burden

You may have noticed that I recklessly tossed aside my goal for one post per week on this blog?  I had good reason.

First, I had surgery.  Seeing as how I’ve already been straight forward with my readers, I’m not going to balk now.  I had a breast reduction done to alleviate back pain as well as other irritants that come from being top-heavy.  I wouldn’t say it was the BEST decision I’ve ever made.  I still count marrying my husband as the answer to that matter of business.  But, it’s pretty far up on the list of good choices I’ve made in life.  While recovering from surgery is reason enough to take a blogging break, it was more that it didn’t seem right to post from an altered state of being due to pain management medicine.  That’s my attempt at diplomatically saying, “Pain killers make me loopy.”  Nah, you didn’t need any of that.

Another reason for letting a few weeks pass by was that I needed to re-evaluate my purpose for this blog.  There are times when I had hoped for some monetary gain from my blogging efforts, but never at the cost of selling myself out.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s awesome all the things that people are able to do to bring in a real income from blogging.  However, that is not my primary reason for starting this blog.  If it had been, I certainly wouldn’t have picked to focus on matters of inspiration and a healthy emotional well-being.  That topic is not a guaranteed sell.  Home projects, parenting, fashion, and cooking blogs are your money makers.  And there are loads of tips and tricks to ensure you bring in significant revenue monthly, but some of them feel too fake or forced to sit right with me.  So, while you may see some ads pop up on my site, you won’t ever see it bogged down with advertisement videos, sponsors, and the like.

What I hope you’ll find instead, is my genuine desire to share a piece of myself in the hopes of lifting another’s burden.  I hope you’ll find a girl who is willing to talk about the painful topics of losing a loved one, battling mental illness, and other difficult life matters, without succumbing to those same heart breaks.  My inspiration for this site started with a little seed nearly ten years ago, as I battled with Postpartum Depression.  The glimpse of hope that I felt when another woman had expressed not feeling “perfectly awesome” after having a baby, as I was so deep in feelings of hopelessness, will forever stick with me.  Her honesty gave me hope.  If my honesty helps even one person feel like they’re not alone in their struggles, then my purpose for this blog has been fulfilled.  I have helped lift another’s burden.

I’m not certain how often I will visit the writing board from this time forward.  I no longer feel inclined to provide a post just to provide a post.  I want to write when I have a message to share or a piece of me to give.  To publish a post simply to keep traffic flowing does not seem suitable at this time.  So, in the meantime, may you enjoy this holiday season with your loved ones.  May it be filled with opportunities to lift another’s burden; that is my hope for this blog, as it is for my daily life.  And, may your Christmas be merry and your New Year be bright!

Christmas be merry

Never Give Up

I was helping my second grader with her reading homework the other day.  I was assisting more with her understanding the meaning of a verb, rather than intervening.  It’s important for a child to do their own work and come to their own conclusions.    Of course, it’s tough for me not to swoop in and direct her to the right answer, but that doesn’t allow her to learn and grow.  Plus, it gives me no indication of where she is academically, if I’m doing it for her.  And, I’m so glad that I got to listen to her thought process as it pertained to the open-ended questions.  Her assignment was based on Aesop’s Fable The Tortoise and the Hare.  A common one for sure, with a moral that “slow and steady wins the race.”  However, that was not how my daughter saw it.

After she found her verbs and circled her adjectives, she came to the open-ended questions.  The first question was, “What did you learn from this fable?”  She was quick to answer with, “Never give up.”  I thought about trying to have her think more about the story, but then I realized the question wasn’t, “What do you think Aesop meant for the moral of the story to be?”  It was, “What did you learn from this fable?”  And she learned a powerful message.

Never Give Up

It got me thinking how both the tortoise and the hare finished the race.  They had different approaches and there was only one “winner,” but they both finished.  The Hare didn’t wake up and say, “Screw it.  I already lost.”  Neither of them gave up.

Now let me add, before we focus too much on the word never, that I know it’s not right to speak in absolutes, such as always and never.  There are things in life that may seem to be giving up (such as divorce), but may instead be one or both of the people deciding to not give up on themselves.  Not that I am pro-divorce.  I am simply stating that I recognize that there are instances when “giving up” is a healthier solution.  It’s these instances that I am not speaking about today.

Today I am speaking about never giving up on yourself.  Having experienced multiple times when giving up on life sounded like the optimal solution (a post for another day), and seeing what blessings have transpired after those dark and dreadful moments, I feel confident on this matter.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if I’m the Tortoise or the Hare, as long as I finish the race by crossing the proper finish line versus creating my finish line.

On a much less depressing note, I am learning to never give up on other matters in my life that could use a little extra focus, love, and appreciation.  This blog is one example of that.  I have wanted to throw in the towel in regards to this blog more times than I can count.  While there may come a time when that is what is best for myself and our family, today is not that day.  So, stay tuned, and never give up!