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.

God Can Hear You

      I cannot began to tell you the many times I have thought I was at my lowest and cried out to God, but I honestly thought he could not hear me. I thought that from the place I was at, there is no way God hears my cries and lets me stay there. My thoughts were, if he could hear me then why won’t he change me, why doesn’t he heal the sadness or stop the intrusive thoughts that keep sending me in this downward spiral. I remember countless times crying out to him but all I could say was ,”Help me”, there were no words to express what my heart felt inside, I could not find words to articulate how desperate I felt in that moment for God to step into my circumstances and fix me. I wanted him to fix the racing thoughts, fix the sadness, fix the isolation, fix the sleepless night….I wanted God to fix me. Something had to be broke inside my heart, inside my mind, inside my life that nothing seemed to be able to fix. I wanted the creator to fix what he made because there had to be a defect. There had to be something he miscalculated when he created me. The truth is in those moments where these words tumbled out of my mouth…..Jesus heard me. I will go even further to say not only did he hear me, he saw me and he felt me. Jesus had not abandoned me in my moment of desperation he was right there. I must admit that every single moment I found myself crying out to Jesus, he truly did help me. I see now looking back how he helped me walk through those dark moments. I see now how he held my mind safe in his hands. I see now how he helped me fight the thoughts of suicide with his power and strength. Jesus is right there, he has got you. 

     

      Anxiety and depression can be scary. I know the feelings of sadness and it seem like people want you to explain why you feel that way. I notice that people need an explanation for the sadness. You can’t just be struggling, there has got to be a deeper reason. You just can’t be crying through the night, just because your depressed. You have everything and your still sad, what in the world could be wrong. You are a believer, you hold a title in your church, for God sake you are always serving at church, how can you be dealing with this? When others can’t understand depression and anxiety, it’s difficult for them to support you in a healthy way. It might take you using your voice to explain as much as you can about your struggle. You will need to shape their views as to how they can support you . Oftentimes people say very hurtful things simply because they just don’t understand. We through sharing our struggles can help others understand. Despite all of that, I want you to know that God hears you and me when we cry out to him. We don’t have to pretend or say certain words to get his attention. God desires to hear from us. He wants to hear what we have to say, he hears our cries even when we have no words left and we only have tears, he hears that unspoken language of our hearts. You know those moments when the pain is so real, so raw , so palpable but you don’t have the language to express it, it just hurts. God hears you. Our pain is important to him. Our struggle is important to him. Your not just screaming into empty space and not being heard….that seemingly empty space is filled with the sweet presence of Jesus. I have to remind myself that I’m not alone because he is with me.

      As I find courage to share different parts of my story, I hope it gives you courage to trust that your story is valuable and important as well. The more we can share our stories, the more we can educate others about mental health struggles and how they can support our community. I share my story along with my faith. It has been my faith in Jesus along with medication at times, therapy, my love ones support, support from friends that has been so much help to me finding a healthier place. Do I still struggle?…..YES , but I keep fighting, I keep believing and trusting that because Jesus hears me, he is helping me and if he is helping me…. together we win.

Lord Jesus help me to trust that when I cry out to you that you always hear me. Lord help me to rest in your love for me. I trust that you are always with me no matter what. Thank you Lord for your love.

Amen

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.