Beautiful Lessons Learned

My amazing husband made me this little book:

He sent messages through Facebook asking my friends to write something about me. I was a crying, blubbering mess most of the time I read through it, though there were plenty of smiles and laughs, too. I remembered and learned several things from this.

The first thing I was reminded of was what an amazing, wonderful husband I have who loves and cares about me so much. I was also reminded of how blessed I am to have so many good people around me.

Now, some things I learned. First, we really do make a difference in each other’s lives, even when we can’t see it. People brought up specific examples of things I had said or done that didn’t seem big to me. They were things I did or said simply because that’s me. They were things that I figured anyone would have done. Which leads me to something else I learned—little things, simple things, make a difference. Even if we do or say something that seems small or ordinary to us, even if it’s something anyone would do, if still means something or makes a difference in someone’s life. That means we matter. We all matter because we all make a difference.

Another thing I am in the processing of learning or trying to tell myself is to listen to the positive instead of believing the negative. My husband said he did this because he wanted me to see that there are so many people who love and value me—that there are far more people who think I’m of worth than have told me or made me feel I’m not. A friend also commented on my last blog post that something she does is try to remind herself that her brain is lying to her. That’s what depression is. I have written about and shared this too. Sometimes it is so hard to remember, especially when people have told me to my face what a horrible person I am. But it’s true—there are more people who have said good than bad, and that’s what I need to focus on. That’s what I need to believe. That’s what we all need to believe.

I also learned, from this, how important it is to let people know we appreciate them. Whether we suffer from depression or not, we all get down at times and are hard on ourselves. We all need encouragement and to know we are of worth. I want to be better at letting people know how grateful I am for them and that they have made a difference to me. I also want to be better at seeing the beauty around me—because there is beauty everywhere. In nature and in people. In circumstance and experience. It’s hard to see, sometimes, for those of us with mental illness. It is especially hard for me to see in the winter when my SAD threatens to crush me. But I’m going to try.

I don’t know that all the people who responded to my husband and sent kind and inspiring words will read this. But for those who do, thank you. Thank you, and I love you, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the love and inspiration you have given me. You’ve helped remind me of my worth. I hope you know you are of worth and value too.

Stuck

I feel stuck. This has been a really bad winter for me so far, and it’s not even halfway done. I have this urge to hibernate—to hide away from everything because everything is just so hard. I keep trying—trying to be a good mom and stepmom, a good wife, a good coworker. I keep trying to keep my house clean. I keep trying to write. I start. I write a few sentences, then I stop and can’t write anymore. I keep trying to find motivation. But I have none. I just feel stuck. Even when I do put forth that effort it exhausts me, so I don’t even know if I’ve done the right thing or not.

I just feel stuck. And tired. And wishing I could hibernate until spring.

SAD Again

Winter is in full swing and so is my seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The cold, cloudy, dark days and nights have really gotten to me. Other stress is also weighing me down. I’ve been trying my hardest to stay out of the clutches of depression, but winter is an especially hard time for me. One thing that helps are the birds.

I live close to a Waterfowl Management Area, home to more than just waterfowl. It is a stop for migratory birds, and winter and spring is filled with them. I love going out there to watch them and take pictures of them. It doesn’t cure my SAD, but it at least gives me a little bit of joy in an otherwise bleak and dreary time.

What hobbies or things do you do to help yourself with your mental illness? I believe we all have something we can use or lean on to at least help a little.

Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier

You Don’t Always Have to Be Happy

I wanted to share this wonderful article about why it’s okay to allow yourself to feel sadness; about why it’s okay to not always be happy. https://www.ldsliving.com/Jesus-Wept-and-So-Can-I/s/85891?fbclid=IwAR1NaOp-0wkUEwnbIXQsFEYb5WIV_LIq2-2oGjvLFW7L9oBr-igwNBjKZIY

I have long expressed how it’s okay to allow yourself to feel. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, depressed, lonely, frustrated and other emotions people associate as “negative” emotions. Emotions are real, no matter what they are. Trying to suppress those things usually causes more problems than just feeling them, letting them go through you. It’s about what you do after. It’s about how you choose to react once you have felt them. Do you continue to dwell on them and let them rule your life or do you find ways to deal with them or get help for them? But to feel them is okay. Beyond it being normal–human–it allows us to become compassionate and understanding. I believe it allows us to become more like our Savior.

Mostly Doing Well

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I had a panic attack today. First one I’ve had in a long, long time. I’ve been doing really well. I’ve barely been affected by SAD this winter. It has been amazing! But I had surgery a week ago. My boyfriend has been here, taking care of me. He goes home tomorrow, and I was feeling so overwhelmed with all the things I need to do and wondering how I was going to do them without his help, as I continue to recover. (He lives over 1600 miles away.) At first I was just crying, but then it turned into a full-fledged panic attack where I was hyperventilating and getting light-headed. My boyfriend heard and came rushing in. He pulled me into him and held me, then started breathing deeply, for me to hear. I tried to match my breathing with his, and eventually calmed down.

Living or being in a relationship with someone who has mental illness can be hard. I know it hasn’t always been easy for my boyfriend, but I’m so grateful to have someone who has let—and even encouraged—me to be open about it. I’m grateful for someone who has been willing to be patient and learn and help. I don’t believe mental illness should be used as an excuse. It can make certain things much harder to do, but I never think it should be used as an excuse, and no one should be expected to allow themselves to be abused or remain in a toxic relationship with someone who has mental illness who isn’t willing to do anything about it. But I do wish, still, that there was more discussion on it, more openness and more willingness to be patient, to learn and to help—on all sides. I still continue to be hopeful that one day there will be.

Depression

Anxiety is usually what gets me these days. It is the demon I live with on a daily basis. Depression does rear its ugly head in the winter as SAD takes effect, and every once in awhile I’ll get down for a little while, but for the most part I don’t get depressed a whole lot. Until recently, anyway.

The last couple of weeks depression has attacked me. I have been painfully stumbling through life in that dark place, and I don’t know why. That’s the thing about mental illness—there doesn’t have to be a reason. It just is. It just happens. And I hate it! I hate feeling this way. I don’t want to feel like I’m worthless. I don’t want to feel like I’m inadequate. I don’t want to feel like I’m not enough. I don’t want to feel like I’m a terrible person. I try. I try hard to do what I’m supposed to. I try to feel good. I try to feel happy. But I don’t. And I wish there was a reason. If there was a reason I could fix it, or at least have a starting point to work with. But there’s no starting point. And there’s no ending point. It’s just a circle that sometimes, luckily, is in the light, and sometimes, inexplicably, rolls on in utter darkness.

Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

Real Identity Theft

A few days ago I was looking through an old journal and came across an entry from about a month after my daughter was born.

“Who I am lies dormant in words that are packed away beneath stacks of notebooks. I am forgotten, unknown poems, unable to bring them back to life inside of me. If anyone should ask where I am, this is where I’d tell them to look.”

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I had forgotten just how much postpartum depression steals your identity from you. It is the truest form of real, actual identity theft. Some women get it back after a month, a few months, a year. I didn’t begin to start feeling like myself again for three years. And even then, there were parts of my self that never came back. I lost so much.

After reading this journal entry, remembering, pondering, I realized what a good place I’m in right now. I know who I am again. I have a sense of self, and I can be that self. And I like who I am. I feel strong, confident, independent, though able to admit when I need help and ask for it, and I’m happy. Life isn’t without its struggles, and sometimes I get down, feel disappointed, am sad. But I am still me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to get through those hard times without letting them consume me.

What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

A couple of weeks ago I hit an extremely low point—one of the lowest of my life. The next morning I woke up early to make sure I had enough time to curl my hair and put on makeup. I think part of it was wanting to feel like I still had control over something in my life, even if it was just the way I looked. However, even though I looked like this:

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inside I felt like this: hopeless, depressed, sad, alone, empty, hollow, sick, dead.

Several times in my life I’ve been surprised to learn someone has mental illness because on the outside they appear fine, put together, happy even. We live in this society of fronts. For some reason we are raised to believe we have to put up a front for people no matter how we really feel or what we’re going through. It often becomes automatic to smile and tell people you are good even when you are not. That’s one of the most difficult parts of mental illness. It’s a disease you can’t see.

The other thing people should know is that there are moments of good and happiness. Sometimes my smile is real because I’m happy to be around you or I laugh because I really do find what you said to be funny. But those are moments in the midst of the whole story. And the whole story is that I still have mental illness. Depression, anxiety and OCD are still my constant companions. It isn’t like a broken arm that can be casted and healed in a few weeks.

Of course there are things that can help. I’ve written about those things a lot already so I’m not going to go into it again right now. I guess I just wanted to make people aware that mental illness isn’t always something you can see. That doesn’t mean it’s not real or that it’s not there. It is.

Beating My SAD

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I live in a desert. It’s a high desert, there are mountains, we do get snow, but it’s still an arid region. Because of this, winter snow and snowpack are very important. I know how important it is to our water situation come summer, yet I can’t help but be grateful for the mild winter we have had. I can only think of two major snowstorms this winter. There was a brief period of time where it got pretty cold, but for the most part it hasn’t been a bad winter at all. This is great new for my seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which hasn’t been nearly as bad as previous winters. It hasn’t abandoned me completely, unfortunately, but just like this winter, it has been mild. I think part of it has been my consistent light/heat therapy, but the warmer temps and overall nice weather have definitely played in as well. Rather than being holed up in my house, escaping the cold, but getting antsy and claustrophobic, I have been able to get outside, enjoy the sun, the warmth, birds, water, the sky, nature. It’s had an amazing effect! Yesterday morning I planned on hiking around this trail near my house, but got caught up taking pictures of all these great blue herons and white-crowned sparrows—which was just as much fun as hiking!

I know the warmer-than-usual, lack-of-snowfall winter has many people concerned, but I am going to remain grateful for how it has helped my health this season!