To Have A Friend

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I never knew how precious a friend could be until I no longer had any close by.  For so long, I have tried to find someone who I could talk to and share fun times with.  But it hasn’t really worked out.  One person I began to grow close with has become extremely busy so I rarely have a chance to see or speak to her.  And I recently got into a huge disagreement with one of the only other individuals that I was forming a friendship with.  What hurt more than the disagreement is the fact that I cannot understand why I am not worthy of anyone else’s friendship.  I know I’m not perfect.  I have my flaws.  But I think everyone is deserving of a friend.  I feel invisible.  No one desires my presence.  No one wants to include me.  No one even thinks of me.  Am I that awful?  Am I that unpleasant?  Am I that inconsequential?  It makes me sad to ponder these questions.  I try to be loving.  I try to be helpful.  I try to be loyal.  But it’s not enough.  I seek for a kindred spirit in vain.  I search for anyone needing a helping hand.  I look for any way to make myself meaningful.  But nothing changes.  How long will I feel so alone?  How long will I continue to face rejection after rejection?  Should I keep trying?  Should I give up?  Are my efforts wasted?

These are the questions that pass through my mind from time to time. I don’t want to think like this.  I wish it did not bother me.  I wish I were stronger and didn’t need anyone else.  But I long for female companionship.  I lean on my husband and he is there for me, but there is something so validating about another woman sharing similar experiences.  Sincere empathy from a friend feels so sacred and holy to me; a manifestation of the love of Christ.  It is the sharing of perfect love and understanding.  Women have a true desire to lift up one another and extend the comfort of being seen, and being known.

I feel slighted that it is being withheld from me.  Others seem to have found it so deeply in one another, but for some reason it is not meant to be for me.  I know I should count my blessings for all the wonderful things that I do have in my life, and my friends far away who try to be there for me.  I just wish that I fit in.

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Simplicity in Mindfulness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of mindfulness.  Basically, it refers to the idea that you focus on being in the moment.  You try to notice the details involved with whatever you are doing in the present, instead of thinking about or replaying the past, or becoming worried about or preoccupied with the future.  You are training your brain to actually experience each moment as it comes instead of multi-tasking and missing out on the simple things in life.

There are exercises that you can do to help you practice mindfulness.  Let’s say you are taking a walk.  Start with engaging your senses.  Notice how things look around you, what the air smells like, how the breeze or the heat feels, and what sounds you hear.  Try to “write down” what you are noticing in your head.  Note each observation as you go along.  This enables you to see the full picture of this scene in your day and in your life.  In theory, it brings greater happiness to have the ability to focus on the present.

The ultimate example of appreciating these simple things comes when I am interacting with my children.  When I am holding my baby, I look at the expression on his face.  I notice how wide his smile is, how his eyebrows lift slightly when he’s excited, the way his chubby, squishy legs feel, and observe how they bend in order to make himself bounce when he hears music.  I breathe in his baby smell; a mixture of baby shampoo, baby detergent, slobber, milk, and the other mysterious components of new human smell.  The realization comes to me: this is a remarkably sweet moment.

In practicing mindfulness with my children, I realize that I don’t want to forget these things.  I don’t want to miss these moments.  These pure, simple, moments.  They may not be anything mind-blowing to anyone else, but to me, they are the essence of life.  This is my one chance to take it all in.  Because when the moment is gone, it’s gone.  We always think that there will be another moment if we miss this one.  And many times, that is true.  But sometimes there isn’t.  So whenever I am able and remember to be mindful of my surroundings, I try to stay there.  I try not to wander.  I try not to worry.  I try not to analyze things that I can’t change.  I’m simply there.

 

Simplicity

A Long Journey

If I had to pick an event that best represents a voyage in my life, the past year and a half would be it.  My voyage included moving to a new state with my little family.  I (stupidly) thought this would be easy; even fun.  An adventure, I thought.  Little did I realize that I was beginning a difficult journey that proved to be one of the most challenging periods in my life.  Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that there are so many more life experiences that would be much more worthy of the title “difficult,” and I don’t intend to demean those by this post.

I haven’t typically had a difficult time making friends.  I’ve usually found that whenever I’ve moved or started a new chapter in my life, I’ve found a niche rather quickly and easily.  There were times where it took a little bit of extra effort, but I had other support systems and was fortified mentally to stay afloat until things clicked.  Not this time.

We arrived in Oklahoma in December and quickly realized how different it was to be far away from family during the holidays.  We intended to celebrate alone with our two children in our small new apartment.  Loneliness quickly set in. We were bored.  It was cold.  The apartment seemed so confining.  There were boxes everywhere with no more places to put away our stuff.  We ran away from it and trekked home to be with our families until the new year.

Coming back, I was determined to find my place and find some friends.  I found out that I was pregnant for the third time.  This wasn’t a complete surprise, but happened MUCH sooner than expected.  This turned out to be my most difficult  pregnancy.

As much as I tried to socialize, attend any church events that I could, introduce myself to people, friend them on facebook, and do whatever I could think of to connect, I still seemed to be on the outside looking in.  I figured things would get better.  But yet, I still felt so alone.

People were friendly towards me.  It never went beyond pleasant small talk, though.  Months passed and I hoped for some kind of social invitation, but it never really came.  That’s when things got desperate…I joined a book club.  I even offered to host.  I HATE reading books.  But I was willing to do anything for social interaction.  Thankfully, audible saved me from actually reading, haha.  But for real, things got desperate.  I started accepting invitations to attend direct sales/MLM parties.  I even committed to buy things in order to make a favorable impression.  I loathe these parties.  But again, I was doing my best to be pro-active in making friends.

Things still weren’t clicking, however.  My health started to decline due to pregnancy changes and my ability to be pro-active was gone.  I have struggled with depression during previous pregnancies, so I knew it was coming.  Right at 12 weeks, I take a nosedive.  That time came and I felt worse than I ever have in my life.  I was in complete and utter misery.  I could barely get out of bed.  The thought of how much effort and energy it would take to take a shower moved me to tears daily.  Doing pretty much anything depleted me.  My two boys were pretty much left to their own devices most of the time.  I made sure they had the basic necessities, but even doing that was mentally painful.  Things like cooking and grocery shopping were not happening.  I resorted to eating out for most meals.  It was the easiest solution for me, although not a very good solution overall.

I cried.  A lot.  My poor husband.  I cried pretty much daily.  I would pour out my heart to him, “Why don’t I have any friends?” “What is wrong with me?”  “Why don’t people like me?” “I can’t do this; I feel so terrible.”  “I’m so overwhelmed” “I have nothing to do; nothing to live for.”

Feelings of anxiety started ramping up.  This was new to me, even though I had experienced depression and a tiny bit of anxiety before.  It became difficult for me to go places and do things.  I would feel the weight of complete inability to function.  Thinking about all that I had to do to accomplish certain errands or tasks, especially when I would have to have my children in tow, would bring on tears and it would be difficult to breathe normally.  “I just can’t do this” was something that was a part of my new vocabulary.

It’s not like I didn’t try.  I would make many efforts to force myself to do certain things.  But those efforts didn’t always pan out.  When your energy level is at a 0 or 1 and everything requires a level of 5-10, it’s just not happening.  Good intentions and a desire to overcome simply can’t erase the fact that certain things had become impossible for me.

I also began to have irrational worries.  I constantly, CONSTANTLY, worried that my baby was going to die.  That I would have a miscarriage.  That something would go terribly wrong.  That he would have a serious birth defect.  That even if he did make it to term, he could be stillborn or some other horrible thing.  I would sob over the thought of this.  These thoughts had such a strong hold on my brain that I could not let them go or dismiss them.  I remember one time I was trying to cheer myself up by going shopping at Target, one of my favorite things to do, and I decided to look at baby clothes.  As I browsed the selection of cute baby outfits, I began to cry.  I could not bring myself to buy anything at that point because in my sick brain I was still convinced my baby would probably die.  The thought of seeing that outfit never being worn, figuring out what to do with it after the fact, and how terrible that would feel made me afraid to buy anything.  It would be better to not get my hopes up of having a healthy baby.

I realize now how strange that sounds, especially since I had already had two very healthy babies prior to this.

That’s mental illness for you.

I recognized that things were worse than my other pregnancies.  I talked to my doctor several times, he ran some tests, and finally we found out that my iron was low on top of my other issues.  I began taking several different supplements and also increased my anti-depressants, and slowly I began to feel better.  It was certainly still very difficult for me but at least I wasn’t completely confined to doing almost nothing.  Thoughts about my baby dying became less frequent and less intense.  I had a chance now, at least.

My husband was strong and supportive.  He stepped in to take over a lot of the child/household related duties because I couldn’t.  He listened to me and tried to just be there.  He did his best, and I am grateful.  Without him, I don’t know if I could have made it.

As the pregnancy progressed, I grew more and more uncomfortable, swollen, and huge.  Everyone feels huge, but I got to feel extra crappy on top of that because I turned out to have gestational diabetes (this is a condition caused my pregnancy-related hormones, NOT because of lifestyle).  So almost my whole pregnancy I had been making myself feel more sick without even realizing it because of the things I was eating and my sedentary lifestyle.  I did not know I had this condition until the third trimester.  My high blood sugars had been contributing to me feeling so terrible.  Once we finally got this issue figured out and established the diabetic diet, and eventually added in needed medications, I began to feel significant improvement.  But a lot of damage had been done.  I had gained a lot of weight and my muscles had atrophied.  I was so out of it for so long that I still felt kind of lost in how to handle my life.  I was good about sticking to the diet, and I made efforts to walk more, but it was still very difficult.

The pregnancy seemed to go ON and ON.  I was getting more uncomfortable by the day.  I was grateful to have a somewhat normal level of function again, I was still miserable.  I still felt so physically constrained.  I still felt very alone.  I wondered why God sent me here.  What was I doing wrong to experience such pain?  I felt like I was truly suffering.

I finally DID have my baby and it was crazy, painful, and wonderful.  The first few weeks were great and I felt loved receiving well wishes and a few dinners from local church members.  I was so grateful for that!

I anticipated that things would get easier now that he was born (why, I don’t know), but things did not go according to my plan.  My baby seemed healthy and was so cute, but whenever you put him down, he let out a blood-curdling scream, and did not stop until you picked him up again.  I thought he was just a high maintenance baby, so I tried to suck it up and deal, even though I was sleep-deprived and constantly stressed out.

Feeding him was difficult.  If he started getting into screaming fits, it was difficult to get him to nurse.  He was so worked up, he couldn’t figure it out and he came unlatched very easily which led more more screaming and incredible frustration and tears on my part.  I couldn’t figure out why things seemed so difficult.  I had already nursed two children and I fed him very often, yet he still cried.  I tried to figure out if he had any digestive issues or some other problem.  His pediatrician said everything seemed fine.  His weight percentiles had dropped, but neither me or my pediatrician were worried because my other two children cruised along at low percentiles and were just fine.  We figured the baby was just “settling in” to a similar growth pattern.

At his 3 month old checkup, his weight percentiles had dropped significantly.  This was not just a natural fluctuation.  His stats had a pattern of dropping.  Something was wrong.

The pediatrician suggested that my breast milk might not be nutritive enough.  He suggested that I supplement with formula; one 4oz bottle per day.  I accepted this in the moment because I wanted my baby to be healthy.  Then I was skeptical that my breast milk was the problem, because my other two children had nursed for two years each and been super healthy.  My next thought was maybe all his screaming was burning a lot of calories, or that he had a fast metabolism, and he simply needed extra calories.  I was so tired and sleep deprived, I was not in a state to problem-solve beyond that.

I mentioned the findings to my friends and one friend asked if I had considered if my baby had a tongue tie.  Having heard a little bit about it, I did wonder if it was a possibility, but I had dismissed it when I did not have one of the major symptoms of significant pain while nursing.  I didn’t have any pain at all.  Less than my other two kids, in fact.  I decided to check into it again at her suggestion.  My baby did have several of the less-obvious symptoms.  He had a lazy latch, and I could tell he wasn’t making a strong seal/suction with his mouth.  He popped off frequently, and it was a constant battle to keep his mouth latched correctly.  He was fussy and cried a lot.  His weight gain wasn’t what it was supposed to be.  One time he didn’t have a bowel movement for a week (which the pediatrician said was within normal range, and for some kids it definitely can be normal).  He fell asleep while nursing quite frequently (tongue tied nursing is exhausting for babies).  I didn’t seem to put these symptoms together to discover the underlying problem: he was tongue tied!

I had to go to a pediatric dentist for an evaluation because our pediatrician told me he did not see any problem and he seemed generally unfamiliar with this type of feeding problem.  My baby was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie, and we had them fixed that day.  At a friend’s suggestion, I visited a lactation consultant prior to and after the tongue tie procedure.  Before the procedure, we got his milk intake measured with our lactation consultant.  After nursing (seemingly) vigorously for 30 minutes, he had only consumed 60 grams, or about two ounces.  He should have been consuming about four ounces per feeding according to his age and number of feedings per day.

So, basically, my baby was only getting HALF of the food that he should.  No wonder he was screaming.  He was hungry!  Poor little guy.  I was instructed to begin supplementing an additional 2oz per feeding right away.

A week after the procedure, his milk intake increased to 90 grams in a half hour feeding, or about three ounces.  There was noticeable improvement!  I was so relieved.  In the meantime, I was attempting to pump to increase my supply and to use for the supplemental feedings.  This quickly became incredibly tiring and overwhelming.  Trying to care for 3 kids, including a newborn, and nurse him, feed him a bottle, then pump, then clean the pump parts and bottles, and then start all over again day after day seemed impossible to keep up with.  This routine simply was not sustainable for me.  I could feel my mental health declining again.  This whole situation caused so much stress that I felt very unhappy.  I was happy to know that things were improving, but on the other hand it seemed like I couldn’t really see a time where my life would be any different or easier than it was right in that moment.

I discussed it with my lactation consultant and we decided that I should pump when I am able to, but not to make myself sick by stressing about doing it a certain number of times per day.  I always had formula that I could give him.  I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate, so I don’t want to sound like I am promoting “giving up.”  I was at the point where this was the best choice for us.  My mental health affected the entire family, including my ability to care for my baby.  A mother has to balance all the needs of everyone, including herself. Everyone needs to be healthy. Bottle feeding was a godsend to our family.  It solved many problems at once.  I still worked with my baby to help his mouth and tongue heal and stretch properly, worked with him on his latch, and helped exercise his neck muscles which were affected by the tongue tie.

It was like I had a whole new baby.  He was HAPPY.  I could put him DOWN.  For the first time, I could somewhat relax.  It felt so strange to me to not feel constantly on edge.  To not feel that heavy, panicky weight when he cried.  What a transformation!

Fast forward six months and this baby is just doing great.  I am, too.  I have steadily improved with my mental health stability through the help of continued medication and some counseling to help me cope with some of my symptoms.  That is the beauty of medication to me.  Before it, I’m completely unable to do anything to help myself.  With it, I still have struggles and symptoms, but I can be in the frame of mind to DO something about it.  I’m not longer helpless.  Medication doesn’t solve all the problems, but it can be a huge help and truly life saving.

I still feel like I haven’t found my place here.  I still don’t have close friends.  But I do have a network established and a level of familiarity with people and places that makes me feel comfortable.  I have found some interests to keep me involved and active.  I have the ability to pull myself up when I start to slip and fall.  I have been able to pursue some interests and find a little spark of passion from within myself again.  I have learned a lot.  When I look back and see the differences in myself between now and a year ago, I almost cannot believe the difference.  The hell is ending.  My voyage is almost complete.  I’m blown away at how much has happened and how long it has taken to work through this; yet grateful at the same time that it wasn’t longer or more challenging than it was.  I am filled with compassion for others who experience things similar to what I have and worse.  I certainly don’t claim to have a bad life.  My challenges are small in comparison to some.  But even with a tiny glimpse into what life can be like when you feel sick, lonely, and hopeless, my perspective has dramatically changed.  I’m grateful for normal; and  I almost feel back to normal.  Who knew average and “normal” could be so incredibly fantastic?

 

 

Voyage

Therapy is Amazing

Today I went to my therapist for my third session.  I have had difficulty managing my depression and I knew that there were some underlying issues that could be improved by addressing them with a professional.  Our initial visit involved my therapist getting to know me a little bit, so that she could get a picture of my life and get a better idea of how to help me.  The main thing I took away from our first session was that I was doing better than I thought I was, and although I am not able to get all the things done that I WANT to do, I’m getting the things done that I NEED to do, and I needed to recognize the value in that.  She asked me to focus on what was getting done versus what was not getting done.  In other words, change to a glass-half-full perspective.  It sounds pretty simple, right?  But to a person with depression, it is easier said than done.  So this was an important task for me to work on (and “thinking positive” isn’t going to cure all my problems, this is simply a place for us to start working on things).

 

Today we discussed how throughout my life I have sought out affirmation and validation from external sources.  We reviewed my emotional needs and environment chronologically through my childhood to adulthood.  We got through the years until right before college.  The more that I talked, the more that I realized where my personal validation was coming from.  It often came from achievement, in one form or another.  Especially with another person being able to compliment me on my achievement; even on things that weren’t really “achievements,” such as my weight, how I looked, and how “cool” I was.  It seemed to me that the most powerful form of validation was related to academics and talents, from school to sports and art.  I felt so important and special when I would be recognized for these things.  It seemed like the one time in my emotional world that things were always good and happy, even though there were frustrating parts in the learning process at times.  In the end, I always came out victorious in one way or another.  I was never the best at anything, but I knew I was good.  And I knew I excelled in certain areas.  And no one could take that away from me no matter what happened.  There was often pressure on me, both external and internal, to achieve.  Sometimes it felt like this pressure was a burden, but often it drove me more to excel.

 

As I left the session, I made the connection that in my current stage of life, I am not “achieving” very much right now.  I know my role as a mother is important, but there really is no way to measure how good of a job you are doing or to have anyone recognize your efforts.  Children are clueless about everything goes into the everyday tasks, organizing, and upkeep of a home in the physical, financial, and emotional sense.  It’s complicated.  And children are (usually) shielded from that.  They have a mental freedom that I wish I could have back.  There are stumbling blocks in the grown up world, and they are frequent.  That is where sometimes I fell like I can’t or don’t want to get up after stumbling, because there isn’t a lot of motivation for me to continue on.  What am I achieving?  What is there for me to feel good about?  It isn’t as tangible as the sources I was used to.  Feeling accomplished drives me.  Even if I do accomplish things that are important or difficult, there isn’t the same type of feedback that you would receive in a traditional job, school, or other environment.  And I feel that I need that.  I know I can’t depend on it, but that is where I am right now:  wanting that, searching for that, and not really finding it.  That makes me feel deflated and disappointed most days.  It is difficult to overcome those feelings.  I really hope that the more sessions I have with my therapist, the more we can find ways for me to work through this and find a balance that is right for me.  Overall, I’m feeling hopeful.  And feeling hopeful is really great.

Hello 2016

I have been thinking a lot about New Year’s Resolutions the past few days, being somewhat bothered that I did not really have any.  In years past, I have committed to becoming more organized (didn’t happen), losing weight (which I achieved), and various other things.  I did not feel like making a resolution this year, because I feel like I barely survived 2015 and I can’t handle adding anything extra on my plate.

2015 had some amazing times, most noteably the birth of my 3rd son.  There were also some difficult times.  Experiencing a rough pregnancy, living in a new city, and then adjusting to a new family dynamic with three kids was very stressful for me.  This pregnancy seemed to bring on one challenge after another: morning sickness, low iron & extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, gestational diabeties, extra appointments, ultrasounds, and non-stress tests that took up a lot of time.  I cried so often during my pregnancy thinking of having to endure it another day.  I know that sounds a little dramatic, but the thought of how much longer I would have to wait until the baby came seemed too much.  I would break down and say, “I can’t do this anymore!”  I felt so awful most of the time.  Accomplishing the smallest tasks required all my engery and strength.  I recall during the first and second trimester having to work myself up to take a shower.  I would lay in bed and bemoan all the effort the whole routine would take.  Take off the clothes, get in, wash the body (and hair less frequently), dry off, redo deoderant and all that jazz, put clothes back on.  How stupid and what a waste of time.  But it had to be done.  So, yeah.  Months of that.

I don’t feel like I have handled the transition to having three kids very well.  It is very overwhelming.  Having a newborn is hard enough, and when you add in all the needs of the other two children and trying to help them still feel important and loved, coupled with sleep deprivation and trying to keep the house from imploding, it feels like too much to handle.  It should be the happiest and greatest time in my life, but it’s just not.  I know we will find a new normal eventually, but getting there is slow going.

I started trying to lose my extra baby weight by joining Weight Watchers again.  It started off well but after a while all of the tracking and meticulous meal planning was stressing me out too much.  Everything else took a back seat when I finally figured out that the baby had a tongue tie that needed revision and that we needed to make changes to his feeding schedule and methods.  I had to take a break.  Things are (thankfully) getting better.  But I feel no desire to set a weight loss goal this year.

I saw a friend post this on facebook, and I feel that it is the perfect summary of what I want to do this year.  I need to take care of myself in a myriad of ways.  But I have to do it in a way that will be an uplifting and positive force in my life instead of a source of constant stress.  So this will be my mantra:

My biggest goal for this year- treat myself well.

Enjoy my body for what it is and buy it clothes for the size it is, not what I think I will be.

Exercise to keep it working properly , but don’t try and go overboard and NEVER use working out as a way to lose weight, just to treat myself well.

Eat good healthy food to treat myself well, but also eat treats and cake and cookies without guilt, because they are treats and gosh darn it I deserve to “treat myself” well and buy myself some good chocolate and not have to share.

There are other goals, but this one is the most important.

 

I also acknowledge the need to nourish myself spirtually as well, and I will apply the same theme for that as well.  I will things that will be treating my spirit well.  Seek and find peace, comfort, and strength.  Seek counsel in the areas in which I struggle.  Recognize that imperfection is normal and that Jesus Christ has given me the gift of grace that can make me whole.  I am so grateful for that.

This year I want to focus on appreciating what I have.  Every day that I have a good day, I recognize that things are good.  And I don’t want to ever take that for granted again.  Because I really know what it feels like to feel NOT good for an extended period of time.  I want to appreciate my body and my health.  I still have bad days, but they are becoming fewer and fewer.  I am able to appreciate my life, my children, and my husband more and more.  And that really is a gift.

Anxiety, Depression, and Hope

Anxiety.  Years ago, I had no idea what that word really meant.  It is something that I first experienced in its true sense after developing prenatal (a great article about this subject can be found here) and postpartum depression with/after my first pregnancy.  In my experience, the two conditions have been very closely related.  I knew that what I was experiencing went beyond regular pregnancy mood fluctuations after several weeks of feeling an intense dread to leave my house.  I called in to work.  I skipped my night classes.  I watched TV all day; it was the only thing I could do that didn’t completely wipe me out mentally and emotionally.  Anything else was so utterly overwhelming that I would be reduced to tears- laying on my bed, praying for help.

I confided my struggles to my husband, who was as supportive as he could be.  Still, neither of us understood why this was happening.  I had never dealt with clinical depression before.  I was always one of those people who never understood mental illnesses like depression.  I wondered why people couldn’t just stand up, dust themselves off, and do what they needed to do.  What made depressed people special snowflakes exempt from accountability?  Everyone else on the planet had troubles in life but still managed to function.  That is what “strong” people did.  Depression was for weak people.  I soon realized just how wrong I was about depression, anxiety, and many other things.

I knew I needed to ask for help when I walked in on my husband in our guest bedroom, kneeling on the floor in prayer on my behalf.  Although we are a faithful couple, seeing my husband silently pray in such a serious manner was somewhat of a rare sight.  Instantly, I just knew that he was praying for a way to help me or figure out what was going on.  I didn’t have to hear what he was saying; I just knew.  Not much ever upsets my husband, and I could see in the lines of his face that his concern for me was deep and real.  It instantly struck me to the core.  I felt touched and humbled.  It was confirmed to me in my mind that this was a big deal, and I needed to do something about it.

I previously had fleeting thoughts that I needed some kind of help, but I brushed them aside due to my prideful thought that seeking help would be admitting defeat.  That it would mean I was a failure because I couldn’t handle this myself.  That there really was something wrong with me.  That I was a freak.  That I was crazy.  That I wasn’t the way a woman like me was supposed to be.

I asked my husband what he had been praying about, following up with, “Was it me?”  He said yes, and that he was worried about me.  We both teared up and hugged.  We decided that we would talk about it at my next doctor’s appointment.  He held me as I cried and grieved the loss of self control that I felt, and tried to work past the accompanying thoughts and feelings of shame and guilt.  I felt like this appointment may be one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.  I had to admit my problem.  This may not seem to be such a big deal to the average person, but in my mindset, this is exactly how it felt.  The person experiencing the symptoms of depression and anxiety struggles to differentiate between truthful thoughts and untruthful thoughts that our brain is telling us, as well as the magnitude of their importance.

The appointment with my doctor was, in fact, not humiliating, but liberating.  My doctor and friend listened to me and assured me that everything was going to be okay.  She validated my feelings and concerns and helped me to understand the biological causes of such conditions and that it was not a cruel consequence of being a bad or weak person.  She prescribed me medication and explained to me in detail how it worked, and also the risks and benefits.  She also explained that how she was prescribing it to me because the benefits greatly outweighed the risks (backed by scientific research).  I am thankful and feel lucky that my doctor was well-educated on this issue as well as compassionate.  I often think about if I had seen a doctor who was not compassionate, and how I may have reacted to a negative response to my concerns and symptoms.  It is scary to think about the downward spiral that could have occurred if I hadn’t been taken seriously.  That is why I feel so lucky.

Gradually I began to feel better.  I still had bad days and struggles, but the difference was that I was that I now had to capacity to manage it and live my life instead of being completely debilitated by it.  Depression medications don’t “make you happy.”  They give you a life preserver that allows you to live.  The storm is still raging, but you are able to survive and fight instead of just drowning.  That is how it has felt in my experience, however some people do not find medications to be helpful or it takes them a while to find the right type and dosage of medication to be effective.

The rest of my pregnancy was fairly good.  My symptoms worsened postpartum, but an adjustment to medications helped with that and things were brought into balance again.  Since then, I have been on and off medications, with the majority of changes occuring with my pregnancies.  It seems as though hormonal disruptions to my brain chemistry will continue to plague me throughout my life.  I have come to accept this, although I do wish I could be completely free from it.  However, I do feel grateful that I am more knowledgeable about managing it and I know that I can live a happy and healthy life if I take care of myself and ask for additional help when needed.  I try to share that message with anyone I meet that is struggling.  I want them to know that I have been there and I have felt that helplessness that they are feeling, but that things can get better.

I am a firm believer in God and that He wants us to be happy and to use whatever resources are available to us to improve our lives so that we may continue to grow and develop as much as we can.  There is no shame in asking for help, and in fact, reaching out is one of the bravest things you can do. Asking for help is a defining moment, because you are in a state of complete vulnerability.  Getting to that point is biggest hurdle to overcome, in my experience.  For me it became so much easier after that.  I know it isn’t that way for everyone, but even if things are still rough for a while, at least there is now someone else there to help you carry the burden.  The most important thing to remember is to never give up.  Ever.  Because this world and the people around you need you.  I know you may not believe it, but I promise you it’s the truth.  Hold onto that.