Will You Share Your Story?

Jewel has a song, Hands, that says she’s never broken—that we are never broken. I think the opposite is true. I think we’re all broken, have been at some time or will be in the future. I think all, or most of us, have had or will have shit lives at some point. And at some point, some of us wonder if we’re really going to make it. But so many just don’t talk about it.

I understand the difficult things we go through can be really personal. It took me months to finally write and share about my attempted suicide in 2021. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret that people I interact with all the time know that life got so bad—that I was so broken—that I tried to take my own life. Because I’ve been willing to be vulnerable, honest and not share just the pretty parts of life, I’ve been able to help others. I’ve made a difference. I don’t say this out of egotism, but because many people have told me. That absolutely makes any embarrassment or shame I could have felt worth it.

Sometimes, when we do really bad things or make really huge mistakes, we need to feel really guilty. We need to feel really ashamed, and we need to feel really horrible about ourselves. That can be what leads us to true remorse and change. But I wonder if we feel it more than we need to because we think we’re the only one, or one of the very few, who have done such a horrible thing. Sometimes we feel more depressed and alone because we think we’re the only one who has gone through something so horrific. I wonder if we were more willing to be vulnerable and share those nasty, horrible, depressed, anxious, etc. shit-life experiences we’ve had how much better we could help others through it. I wonder how much more support, understanding, love, acceptance and help we could get if we all just opened up more. Because the world needs more of that. We all need, and could benefit so much, more from it.

If you have a story, consider sharing it with others. You have to be comfortable with it, of course. Just remember—we all can make a difference.

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An Update

Yesterday I saw my therapist. We did an ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) session. I swear, it’s like magic. It made such a huge difference. I have done several ART sessions before, but it has always been about specific trauma or learned behaviors from trauma that I was struggling with. I’d never done it about something as broad and general as depression. But it worked wonders! My therapist said she wished she had a picture of me when I walked in and after the ART was over because she could see a difference in me. We discussed medication and other options as well, but at this point I feel best about going in more often to have more ART sessions during the winter.

In simple terms, Accelerated Resolution Therapy combines eye movements and visualization to treat trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. A good definition I found was that ART “works directly to reprogram the way in which distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions.” https://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/ It has worked for me in a truly life-changing way. After the session yesterday I felt as if a huge, heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I feel hope again.

I wouldn’t say ART “cured” my depression or took it away. It’s still here, like it’s here every winter. And every spring it goes away. That’s why I’m going to do ART more often this winter, until there’s more warmth, light and sunny skies in the world. I do think that medication has its place, and I’m going to talk to a doctor about medication for anxiety because my anxiety never goes away. But for now, I feel good about continuing with the plan I have in place. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember about mental health. When you find something that works, stick with it.

Not Doing Well

It’s been hard to find the motivation to write. It’s been hard to find the motivation to do anything. I’m not doing well. Winter hit sooner than usual this year, and it hit hard. The last several years people have still been out mowing their lawns the first weekend of December, but we’ve had snow and cold temperatures since the middle of November, it seems. And it hasn’t gone away. My depression hasn’t been this bad in a long, long time, and my anxiety is also the worst it’s been in—well, maybe ever. I’ve been having almost daily panic attacks for weeks now, often multiple a day.

I’ve been having a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s just the depression. I try to be logical, to remind myself that depression is a liar, but it’s hard when I feel like there’s so much evidence that I am a horrible mother, a horrible wife and just a horrible person in general who is not doing enough. Who simply isn’t enough and never will be. I keep asking myself why I’m even trying, when it doesn’t seem to matter.

Logically, I can look at what I am doing and see how much better I am at dealing with my mental illness than I used to. Despite just how much it takes from me to get out of bed every morning, I do get out of bed. I get my kids to school. I exercise. I’ve been going to light therapy even though I’d rather stay in bed all day. It takes longer than on healthy days, but I still have been getting dressed, doing dishes, cleaning, getting dinner ready (some nights), going to church, trying to socialize when I can. Yet, every day, as I sit alone crying, feeling so alone and worthless, I don’t feel that I’m doing better or that I’m doing good enough. I don’t feel as if I’m being the person I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel what the logic is telling me.

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. I might want to try medication again, despite the fact that my last several attempts years ago didn’t work. I have to hope that something will help.

Facing the Anxiety

The end of Daylight Savings Time is the beginning of winter hell for me. The cold, short days and long, long dark nights always increase depression and anxiety.

Last week wasn’t so bad because we were on a family vacation at Disneyland. The first couple of days were rainy, but otherwise the weather was absolutely perfect. And I love being at Disneyland with my kids! It was also the first time my husband had been in a very long time, so it was fun to share with him. It was one of the best, most fun vacations I’ve ever been on. Coming home to mid-winter temperatures, cloudy skies and inversion was pretty depressing. I feel like I’ve been on the edge of a panic attack most of the week.

A few days ago I got an email from my son’s elementary school with a sign-up to help supervise kids at lunch while they signed a big Thank You banner for the teachers for Thanksgiving. I went back and forth for a long time about whether to sign up or not. I have enjoyed being able to volunteer the past year, as I stay at home now, but was worried about my anxiety. I finally forced myself to sign up, believing it would be good for me. Sometimes we have to push through the anxiety.

However, I had anxiety about that decision in the days after. I kept getting online to view my sign-up, almost canceling. I just about had a panic attack about it yesterday. Then I reminded myself how I’ve really enjoyed every time I’ve gone to the school to volunteer. I again told myself this was a time I needed to push through the anxiety.

I was nervous when I woke up this morning and got ready, but I went to the school, and everything went great! I’m glad I got to see the kids, talk with other moms and say hi to my son.

I recently posted that sometimes it’s okay to avoid things that give you anxiety. I do believe that. I also believe that sometimes it’s best to face it and push through it because you get a wonderful end result. I think it’s about doing what feels right at the time, re-evaluating and then changing or continuing on the path that is best for you. Maybe a day will come when I feel like I can always push through the anxiety. Maybe. That day is definitely not now. So I will do what I feel is best for me and my health at the time, whether it is recognizing that something is too much to handle right now or deciding that I can, and will, be okay to do it.

Trying to Be Hopeful

The last few weeks have been kind of rough. My depression has come back, as it always does once the weather gets cold and starts turning to winter. The thing to remember about depression and all mental illness is that there isn’t always a reason. Sometimes there is no former trauma, there are no triggers, it just happens. I’ve been trying to look for the good and see hope, though. I wrote a couple of poems about it. They may seem a little forced, but sometimes that’s what we’ve got to do. We have to force ourselves to look for hope in the midst of darkness and despair.

October Moon
by Tacy Gibbons

October moon spreads its light softly
over fallen leaves and fallen tears.
Just enough for some small hope,
a little healing.

Understanding.

Change, metamorphosis can be painful.
Dying leaves crumble beneath heavy footsteps.
Yet even in the dead of night
the jeweled moon shines.

Trees on the mountain, blazing red, orange, yellow, will fall,
replaced by new, vibrant greens in spring.
Growth. Renewal.
Ever stretching toward the sky.

In November
by Tacy Gibbons

Tunnel vision is easy
when the sun rises late
and sets too early
behind craggily-toothed mountains.
SADness feels like it will last forever
in the long, cold, dark winter.

I find some small comfort
in black-capped chickadees perched on frosty trees,
continuing to sing
with breath curling out before them—
a twirling, lilting song of hope
in the freezing November morn.

A Poem About Depression

Depression
by Tacy Gibbons

there isn’t always a rhyme or reason
time or season
anything recent
depression attacks

dark tendrils creeping
cause such weeping
leave me pleading
for relief

seeking reprieve from the storm
crying I mourn
so tired and worn
just take this plate away

bring back the light
warmth so bright
away from depression’s sight
give me a reason

Anxiety is Exhausting

Something people may not realize is how tiring it can be for those of us with anxiety, who are also introverts, to be around a group of people. It’s not that we don’t want to be around people (though admittedly sometimes we don’t), but it takes a lot out of us.

I thought about this last week when I was at band rehearsal. I recently joined a community band, and I’m loving it! Playing the flute is something that has brought me so much joy through the years. As I’ve gotten better at identifying my own symptoms of anxiety or oncoming panic attacks and have been able to think about what I can do to help I’ve played my flute more. Even if it’s just for five or ten minutes it is something that has helped calm or stop panic attacks or has helped lessen anxiety.

I have wanted to play in a group for so long, but even if the opportunity came up I was never at a place in my life where I would have been able to join. Luckily, I’m at that place now. We have had three rehearsals so far, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. I really do love being with this group, but sometimes it’s hard being around a bunch of people. Last week was particularly hard. Part of it was probably that I’m feeling insecure. Even though I have played my flute through the years, I have mostly played easy, melodic pieces because that’s what I love, that’s what I connect with. I haven’t challenged myself much, and now we are playing pieces that I could have easily gotten in high school, but I’m really struggling with now. Several of the other flute players are much younger, but more recently out of high school and haven’t lost the ability, so I feel rather embarrassed at my skill level right now. Add on top of that other stresses of life, and I was absolutely exhausted after coming home from rehearsal last week. I actually broke down in tears when my husband asked how rehearsal was. I felt kind of stupid because I truly enjoy playing and being in a band again. But just being around so many people spiked my anxiety and took so much out of me.

I guess what I want people to know is that it’s perfectly normal for those of us with anxiety to get exhausted being around other people, even when we’re not expected to talk with them. I also think it goes back to the fact that anxiety can sometimes come off as snobbish or standoffish. But that’s not it. It’s just that it is so hard for us, and it can be extremely tiring and take a lot out of us. So be patient. Realize it’s not you. It’s the horrible anxiety that we have to live with. And we’re trying.

Things That Trigger My Anxiety

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed many years ago. Anxiety and being “nervous” are not the same thing. True diagnosed anxiety can be crippling. Unlike my depression that comes and goes, anxiety is something I deal with on a daily basis. I think I’ve gotten better at coping and simply living with it, but it can still get the best of me. I’ve also decided that while there are things I can do to help and sometimes push through it, it is also okay to avoid things that cause anxiety.

Just like symptoms of anxiety can be different for everyone, things that cause anxiety can also be different. This is important to understand for those who live or work with or have any kind of relationship with those of us who have anxiety. If you don’t understand the symptoms or what causes them I understand how frustrating it might be. So I’d like to share some of the things that trigger my anxiety.

A common one, I’ve found, in many of us with anxiety is talking on the phone, especially when we have to call someone. Similarly, I also really struggle asking people to do things or sending reminders. Because of this I often put such things off until the last minute. When I even think about it I start to get physically sick to my stomach and breathing becomes labored.

Being in a crowd of people generally doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind being at the airport or a mall or a concert. It’s when I’m in a crowd of people that I know or where I’m expected to socialize and make small talk that sets my anxiety off. I generally keep to myself in these situations, not because I want to, but because it’s too terrifying to sit by someone or just go up and talk to someone. If someone sits by me or starts talking to me I may come off as the socially awkward person I feel like I am, but I’d rather that than awkwardly be by myself.

Another thing that gives me anxiety is Zoom meetings. I know a lot of people like them, especially in comparison to in-person meetings, but for whatever reason, Zoom meetings gives me horrible anxiety. I haven’t been in a lot of them, but I try to keep my camera off. I figure it’s better for everyone else not to see me having a panic attack as I sit there.

Being late is the worst! Everyone else I know who has Generalized Anxiety Disorder also hates being late. My daughter’s band teacher has this saying that goes something like, “Being early means you’re on time. Being on time means you’re late.” I love it! It is one my philosophies now! It’s not that I’m never late. Sometimes I am, but I try so hard not to be because I start to panic when I’m late.

There’s more, but I think that’s a good list for now. My anxiety can also be triggered at different times based on certain circumstances. Some of my symptoms of anxiety are difficulty breathing (sometimes leading to hyperventilating), getting physically sick to my stomach (sometimes leading to nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea), light-headedness, headaches, uncontrollable crying, becoming restless, fidgeting, pacing, feeling the need to hide and tight or painful muscles, especially in my neck and shoulders.

The reason I share this is in hopes of helping others understand anxiety better. It can be easy to judge and make assumptions about reasons why people do or don’t do certain things. Hopefully it will be easier to be more understanding now. Maybe the reason someone isn’t on a Zoom meeting is because of anxiety. Maybe someone is sitting alone or hugging a wall, keeping to themselves, is because of anxiety. Maybe when someone seems unreliable, they’re actually trying their hardest to conquer their symptoms. Maybe they’re attempting to call someone or reach out or send a reminder when they’re hit with nausea, hyperventilating, vomiting or muscle pain or all of the above. I try to push through, I try to cope, but sometimes I need to give myself grace and take the anxiety-inducers out of the equation altogether.

Some Things About Depression

First off, depression sucks. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s blinding. It’s like a wet, soggy blanket constantly weighing you down. It’s shame and worthlessness. It sucks.

I’ve come to know depression well in my life. I was first diagnosed as a sixteen-year-old, but when I look back at my life I think it started as a small child. There were times the depression left, where I was good and depression-free, even for years, but when it came back in the form of postpartum depression over fifteen years ago it never really left me.

Some people refuse to believe they have any form of mental illness. Or they acknowledge it, but use it as an excuse. I know I have it and can recognize the symptoms in myself most of the time. Unfortunately, depression often skews our perspective. It can make us believe we’re doing things we’re not, that we’re focusing on things we’re not and vice versa. It can even make us believe things aren’t as bad as they really are. I’ve had someone point it out to me, and I’ve also been able to see it in others.

One of the worst things about depression is that is can cause us to be selfish. Not in a narcissistic way, if that makes sense. We just tend to focus on our own struggles or needs we don’t feel are being met, rather than thinking of other’s struggles or whether their needs are being met. I saw it in myself the past couple of days, and I feel ashamed. It’s not that I don’t matter. I do, and I do need to try to help myself and do what I can to get myself out of this pit I’m in. But I can also think of others and do better to remember how much they matter too.

It might be more difficult to remember or recognize these things in the midst of sucky depression, but it is possible. And it is always possible to do better.

The Strength We Should Admire

Today I saw a cartoon with two pictures. The first was of a person standing triumphantly on top of a mountain with the caption, “The Strength We’re Taught to Admire.” The other was a picture of someone struggling to barely make it out of a big, dark pit with the caption, “The Strength We Should Also Admire.”

I really needed to see that today. My depression has taken hold and strengthened against me significantly the last few days. Today I spent a lot of time in bed and a lot of time crying. Despite how much I wanted to spend the whole day in bed, pretending life didn’t exist, I accomplished a few things. I took my daughter to school and got my son off to school on his scooter. I took a shower, even if it wasn’t until the afternoon, and I never actually got dressed; I just stayed in my pajamas all day. I even made dinner and participated in our nightly family scripture study.

Most days I do much more than this. But today it took everything I had to do just these simple, little tasks. Rather than beating myself up for being so pathetic, I’m trying to feel good about how much I did, considering the big, dark pit I’m in right now. I hope everyone can celebrate those little things too, because sometimes it takes far more strength to accomplish them than it does to climb a mountain.