Hiding the Lows

Sometimes even in a space full of other humans, we can find a way to hide our deepest pain or feel so unseen in our broken pieces. It’s like we treat the lows as some deep dark secret that even those closest to us can’t see. So we plaster on those fake smiles so that our deep sadness is tucked safely behind them. We do our best to fade into the crowd and not be seen. What would others think if our thoughts were heard out loud. If they could feel what we’re feeling, how would they get through it? Why do we find comfort in hiding the lows? We believe that were protecting those we love from our pain. It is okay to not hide the lows, it’s okay to invite those we trust into those moments. You nor I have to walk through those moments alone. I know it seems best to hide when we’re struggling with a low but, if you feel strong enough to reach out to your safe people, please do it…..please.

One thing I struggle with is feeling ashamed of being in a low place when I’m having a hard time. How do you tell someone your sad but you don’t completely understand why? How do you bare the dark night that is happening within your soul? Those are questions I asked myself a lot. Sometimes I found myself choosing to try and walk through it alone. My walking through it alone looked a lot like crying downstairs, or in the shower so no one saw me. I did a lot of avoiding eye contact with people I love dearly. I found myself slowly withdrawing from hanging out with others. I thought I was hiding it but the truth is they knew I was struggling but didn’t know how to help. I believe my hiding it from them made them more uncomfortable reaching out to me.

I wanted to believe I wasn’t alone but the lies of the enemy felt so real. Those lies felt like my truth. You know how it feels when your spiraling down and you feel as if you can’t grasp on to anything of truth. This might be hard to hear and believe but Jesus is right there. We can never hide the low moments from him. He sees them, he feels them and rather you care to believe it or not; he truly understands them. He knows the thoughts you are having, those thoughts that you are ashamed to even voice. The thoughts of ending it all, stoping the pain but leaving those who love you in more pain than you could ever imagine in that moment. Moments no matter how long they feel are only temporary. Those moments are not permanent…..they do change.

I want to encourage you as I encourage myself that there is no shame in reaching out for help in the low moments. There is no shame in admitting that you need prayer or someone to be accountable to in those moments. I actually benefit from checking in with my safe people that never judge the struggle but they just walk with me through those moments praying for me all along the way. We’re going to get through the lows because Jesus is with us. Jesus loves us so much. I believe that his heart is turned towards us in a deeper way in those moments. Don’t be afraid to let him in to those moments. I’m grateful for your presence here. I don’t take it lightly that you would read my words. My hope and prayer is that you will find strength and courage to keep going. I hope you feel less alone.

Father I pray for the one reading these words. I pray that they will feel your presence and know that they are not alone. I pray that they will feel you with them and know that they are surrounded by your overwhelming love. Give them strength for the journey and fill them with your overwhelming peace. In Jesus name. Amen

Medication or Not

I must admit that this can be a touchy subject for many. Everyone has their own opinion as it relates to taking medication for mental health struggles. You have some people who shame others for needing medication, you have those who are totally for taking medication for mental health needs and then you have those who feel like it’s a complete lack of faith or a weakness because you do. I guess you can say, there we are in the middle left with the decision to take meds to support our mental health or suffer in silence if we choose not to. I believe the decision to take meds is a individual decision that only the person and those they invite into that decision making process can make. Only you know in fact what you need to help support you with your mental health. Sometimes we may choose to go to therapy and work through the issues that might be causing the struggle and we need meds to keep us in a good place as we work through those things. In such cases your seeing a therapist who will probably teach you tools to help as well as taking meds. I am truly proud of you for realizing what you need to help you remain mentally healthy. I want to share my story with you in hopes that it will encourage you and make you feel less alone.

This is a photo of me a few years ago on my lunch break in my car crying. I must tell you that this was a very vulnerable moment and I never take photos of myself like this. This particular day I felt like I needed to take a photo to mark this moment because I knew change was all around me. I’ve had countless moments like this where the deep sadness felt like it would drown me. Many moments I felt like I couldn’t breathe the sadness was so deep and painful. The tears many times turned into sobs and thoughts of suicide felt like a comfort soothing blanket. Have you ever been there where suicide ideation felt more like a way out than a permanent solution to what might be a temporary emotion. I will tell you this, in those moments they feel endless rather than temporary. The desperation is real. I’ve been on and off medication countless times. I would take it and feel better then decide I didn’t need it anymore. For those of you who have experienced this you know the downward struggle is real and painful. I finally came to a place that in that season of my life I needed the help of medication to be able to process traumatic events from my childhood. I often times say that medication stands between your emotions and your overwhelming emotions and cause them to be manageable. Medication for some is the answer and for others it might not be. I believe what is most vital that we do what is most beneficial for staying mentally healthy.

“The taking of medication is not a sin but the judgement surrounding it is”.

Lora Terry

This quote really struck me when I first read it. I could not stop pondering it, because yes medication is good , but making sure that were not medicating symptoms of a greater issue is also something to consider. Hear me closely with this….. medication can not take away the effects of traumatic events in our lives. It will take some level of talk therapy. The power of voicing your story and sorting through the emotions attached to it can be very healing. I believe therapist create safe spaces where we can voice our stories and do the work to heal in a safe non judgemental space. I still believe though there are times in order to get to that place we need medication. What I hoped to do with this post was to help you feel understood. I oftentimes felt so misunderstood when I would try to talk about the internal struggle I had with medication. The struggle that made me feel powerless. After really processing the struggle, I realized that I was allowing others opinions about medication, faith and the church to cause shame for me surrounding taking my meds. We should never make others feels ashamed of getting the help they need. If anything we should applaud them.

In closing, I want to remind you that you are amazing, you are strong. To take medication or not is an individual decision. I believe that you have to gather all the information you need in order to make an informed decision about your mental health. Gathering the information might look like having a conversation with your primary doctor. In that conversation share openly about the symptoms you are having. Gathering information might look like making an appointment with a therapist and sharing openly(there’s that word again😉) about what is happening in your world and the symptoms you might be experiencing. In those conversations, they will share their thoughts about what it might be, they might even suggest you see a psychiatrist. Now remember, you are only gathering information to make the best decision concerning your mental health. At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make. Thank you for sharing this space with me. I value your presence here💚.

Boundaries and My Mental Health

I could not fathom how much putting boundaries in place to protect my mental health would change so much inside of me. It was almost as if those boundaries gave me permission to protect my healing. I needed to set up boundaries around what was not mentally healthy for me. All environments are not mentally healthy for you, though they may be good for others, does not make it mentally safe for you. I am learning that not every relationship is mentally safe for me. Safe relationships for others does not negate the fact that they are toxic for your mental health. It’s okay to say no to that invitation, or to not answer that phone call or respond to that text. The more you establish boundaries to keep you mentally healthy the stronger you will become. I sometimes take inventory about my feelings and emotions after I spend time with certain people. I notice how I feel after I come out of certain environments and then I decide what boundaries need to be in place to keep me mentally safe. It might be something as simple as limiting my time in that space or refusing to partake in certain conversations. You have a right to protect yourself and you deserve it. Good boundaries are a great form of self love.

            The word boundary is not a derogatory term. It is not a word we should avoid using in our vocabulary. It also is not a word we should throw around lightly with no intentions of enforcing them. Right now, take a moment and think…….what is one boundary you have in place to protect your mental health space? Do you actually enforce it? How does it make you feel when you do? Consider the benefits you have reaped from having that boundary to protect your mental health space? I personally believe healthy enforced boundaries help to support our mental health in ways we have not even experienced fully yet. When was the last time you said No to something to protect you mentally? Having boundaries in place even with our family is healthy as well. I know this  is hard to believe but, there are family members that we can only take in small doses in order to protect our mental space. I know you love your family and close friends but that doesn’t mean long periods of time with them is good for your mental health.  Sometimes you leave them and your exhausted emotionally. Sometimes you leave them and mentally you feel all over the place. It is okay for you to leave that environment to stay mentally safe and healthy. You are worth protecting and if boundaries protect you from spiraling downward mentally, then they are worth having and even more valuable to enforce.

Now, I must tell you that setting up boundaries is so much more easier than enforcing them. We have to get rid of the idea that having boundaries will offend people or hurt them. We have to get out of the thinking that they won’t like us if we say no, I’m sorry I can’t do that. You can say no without any explanation. You just have to believe that your worthy of protecting. Did you know that repeatedly enforcing your boundaries makes it easier every time. The first time you do it might feel very uncomfortable but remember, it is a act of love for yourself when you do. To continue to enforce your boundaries is a continued act of love for yourself and your mental health. Boundaries are not put in place to hurt others or keep people out but they are put in place to limit access to you where you don’t feel safe. To be honest though, enforcing your boundaries may keep certain people out, it might even hurt some people but keep in mind that is not your intentions. Your intentions are to protect your mental health as much as you possibly can.

So, in closing this post, I would love to hear how boundaries have protected your mental health space. I would love to hear about boundaries you intend to put in place and how you plan to enforce them. Let me tell you, I am still on this journey of putting boundaries in place. I’ve learned that the more I enforce them the more I feel empowered to say No, that just doesn’t work for my mental health. The more I do it, I feel less guilty about saying No. I noticed that I do less thinking about how I might have made them feel with my boundary and more thinking about how I made myself feel about enforcing them. I might not know you but I know the struggle of putting boundaries in place. I know the way I’ve felt before realizing that I needed boundaries surrounding what I allow to affect my mental health. I know how empowered I feel when I find the courage to say No. A friend once told me that, “No, is a complete sentence”. You will want to remember that as you start this journey. Thank you for showing up in this space to read my words. I truly do not take it lightly and I honor your presence here. I believe in you.

The Mask We Wear

I was looking at some of the photos my daughter has taken and edited of herself. I’ve always been captivated and intrigued by this one of her. Our daughter is absolutely beautiful but in this mask you can see slight glimpses of her beauty but some of her beauty is hidden behind the mask she is wearing. I must admit that the mask intrigues me. It makes me curious about who is behind the mask and what is she hiding.

I think that as a person who is learning to thrive even with a mental illness diagnosis of depression and anxiety I have worn many mask. I believe I had chosen to wear the mask of happiness because I felt afraid to let others know the deep sadness I faced daily. It felt like no matter what I did, there was this underlining sadness that was always there underneath the surface. It felt like I couldn’t quite be happy enough to make it go away. No matter how many times I put on the mask of happiness it couldn’t change the reality of what was happening in my heart. I truly believe that choosing to wear mask to cover up our mental health struggles are keeping us in a place of hiding and hiding leads to shame. So this post is to talk about the mask we wear to cover up our mental health struggles. I believe sometimes those mask hinder us from receiving the help and support that we truly need. I know hiding it feels safe, it makes you feel like your protecting others from your pain but really you might just be keeping yourself from the real support you need.

Please hear me…..YOU have absolutely positively NOTHING to be ashamed of because you might have some mental health struggles. Please don’t hide this struggle from those who love you and especially those you feel safe with. Sometimes we crack jokes, and make others laugh but inside were hurting. A pain you cannot put into words but it’s there. It’s just as real as the happiness you feel from time to time. Be you, the beautiful authentic, raw, real honest you. You are so brave, you are so strong and more than anything you are capable. I know it can be difficult to navigate the ups and downs of depression. Sometimes the medications seem to treat one part of it and cause difficulty in other parts of it. Just keep going, keep pushing through, keep fighting, keep raising your voice to advocate for your needs to be met. You are not hopeless, you are not worthless….you are worth the son of God’s life. Jesus gave his life for you. I truly believe that the crown of thorns that were placed on Jesus head was for mental health issues. I believe that he allowed that suffering so that we could find peace from our suffering. I hope you can find the courage to take off the mask around those you feel safe with. Be honest with them about where you are with your struggle. Share those thoughts that keep rushing around inside your head that you feel forbidden to share with anyone. Suicidal thoughts can be indicators to the deeper issue that is going on inside. If your depression has taken you into consistent thinking suicidal thoughts, it’s time to reach out for help. Do not allow yourself to suffer in silence. You don’t have to hide behind the mask of happiness, you can get the help you need and truly find a level of happiness. There is joy inside of you just waiting to be discovered.

Just remember the mask we wear to hide our mental health struggles that really need to be brought to the light only hinder us from the help we need. Mental health struggles are no match for who God created you to truly be. Our struggles are a part of us but they don’t define us. Our struggles don’t dictate our destiny. Keep going the light is just beyond the place you lay down the mask.

I see you and I am truly inspired by your courage, faith and strength.

The Fight with Anxiety

Proverbs 12:25

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad”.

I felt it creeping in one thought after the other. I tried to stop it before it spiraled completely out of control. I knew I was heading into the fight for my life once again. Anxiety does not give up easily, it fights you until you feel as if there is nothing left inside you to fight back. Anxiety fights you in the good and the tough times. When something good happens to you, anxiety comes to make you feel unworthy of that good thing. When something bad happens to you, anxiety comes to make you feel that you are deserving of that bad thing. At night anxiety keeps you wrestling for any amount of peace and calm so that you can rest and not just sleep. When you cannot find that peace, you fall asleep, but you do not rest, so you wake up feeling exhausted. The reason is that even in your sleep your thoughts are still going and going and going. You wake from sleep oftentimes and feel like you have been wrestling and fighting all night. When anxiety becomes too big inside of us, it finds a way to show up physically in us. It can show up with rapid heart rate, rapid breathing and sweating.

Anxiety is not a lack of faith issue. Anxiety is not a punishment for some type of sin you think you have done. It is not in your life because you are a bad person. There are many causes for anxiety but regardless of the cause for it, God can still heal it. I believe that for healing God uses a mirage of different ways to bring it to you but healing is healing. No matter if it is currently coming by exercise, relaxation tools, talk therapy, scripture declaration, prayer, fasting, medication or worship however God chooses to heal you, please don’t complain like Naaman in II Kings 5:11, he wanted to be healed but he wanted it a certain way. He wanted the prophet to lay his hand over the leprosy but that wasn’t the way his healing was coming to him. We cannot always decide how the process looks to healing but we can decide if we’re going to submit to it.

Anxiety is real and misunderstood a lot of times. It seems that as a society we judge harshly sickness that we can’t necessarily see then things we can. We can’t see anxiety but we can see the symptoms of it though. Did you know an estimated 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders. That is around 4% of the global population. This was a shocker to discover that 62% of those suffering from anxiety disorders are female(170 million). It was also shocking to find that 264 million individuals worldwide have an anxiety disorder. Did you even know that 40 million adults in the US alone (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. So, this is proof if you needed it that anxiety is real and you are absolutely not alone in your struggle. Please know that you are seen, known and loved by God. I believe that he sees us in our struggles and he cares so deeply for what we are walking through. He has not given up on you, he has not forgotten us. We are stronger than we allow ourselves to believe. Be encouraged anxiety does not define you but it definitely creates a strength in you that you didn’t even know you had. Please if you need help, don’t be afraid to seek the help you need. There is no shame in getting help when you can’t find your way through the hard places. I believe in you and I believe in God to see us through.