Not today, honey!

I’m having a hard day. I don’t feel sad or sleepy or angry. I just feel down…exhausted…weary. Depressed.

This has been a hard week. We moved out of our house and signed the closing papers. This is a huge change for us and every emotion is knocking on our doors.

I feel like I’ve been carrying a heavy load all week. And now I just want to go to bed and stay there.

I’m fully aware of my mental illness today. She’s sitting a little too close to me right now. Thankfully, I recognize how close she’s getting and I have my tool box ready to prevent her from sitting on my lap and taking control over me.

I took my meds this morning. I got out of bed, put on my clothes, and took the kids to Chick-fil-A. We ate inside so I had to interact with strangers. I had to be seen and heard. Then we went to Target for some groceries – checked something off my list – and even though I did use the self-checkout, I still had to leave the comfort of my bed and car and be around people. Then when we got back to the apartment, I played on the play ground with my kids. I laid in the grass, basked in the sun, and even asked Weslee to push me on the swing. I sat on my bed, inhaled some essential oils (bergamot, lemon, and patchouli), and wrote in my journal. People, these are HUGE wins for me on a day like today!

To some these tools of mine may seem silly, but to me they are major successes. Today, I stood up to my mental illness and said, “Not today, honey!”

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Tattoo

I’ve wanted to get a tattoo for a while now, but I’ve been scared. Don’t laugh – tattoos hurt! But last year, when I heard of project semicolon, I knew I needed to gather the courage and get one.

I texted Robert at work the other day, and told him I was ready. I called Ink 180 and made an appointment with Chris. Robert and I walked in, chatted with Chris for a bit and then we headed to the back room. I sat in the chair and braced myself for the pain.

I’ve had 3 unmedicated child births, so when the needle started going in and out of my skin I thought, “This isn’t so bad. No big deal.” Robert quickly reminded me that I was only getting a teeny, tiny semicolon and not a huge tattoo that takes 8-9 hours to complete.

Yes, people sit/lay for 8-9 hours while an artist pokes them thousands of times with a tiny needle. OUCH!!! I don’t think I could do that voluntarily.

I found myself looking at my semicolon all night feeling so proud of myself. Not only for getting a tattoo, but for continuing on in my life. For what this semicolon symbolizes.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life, and during those times, the anxiety and depression would get worse. I’ve come to realize, though, they’re always with me.

They’ve become these constant companions of mine. Getting stronger or weaker with the rise and fall of my emotions. The older I get, the worse they become.

I am so grateful for my faith in God because it is the biggest tool I’ve got. He has blessed me with loving family and friends and counselors, mentors, and support groups who have helped me build a large toolbox filled with tools to help me keep these companions under control.

This semicolon tattoo is another tool. It’s a reminder that when anxiety or depression rear their ugly heads, I don’t have to give up; I can keep going.

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Feelings

Hi. My name is Cheyenne, and I’m feeling insecure and anxious but also excited and hopeful. I’ve learned the roots of these feelings are fear and joy. I’m joyful about writing and sharing my life with readers, but I’m scared of what you might think of me.

Five years ago, I learned how to identify my feelings while attending a support group. The facilitator would pass around a piece of paper with the Feelings Wheel printed on it. Each person would say her name and find which word(s) best described the feelings she was experiencing in that moment. The first time I looked at the wheel, I felt very overwhelmed. For me, it was easier to start on the outer ring and work my way in toward the center. I was surprised to find that “overwhelmed” and “embarrassed” led to “anxious” and “insecure,” which led to “scared.” But fear truly was the root of the situation I found myself in.

I was feeling scared. I was feeling embarrassed. I was very anxious and extremely insecure. My joy was gone, and I didn’t have much hope.

I chose to attend this particular support group after Robert’s and my marriage counselor recommended it. He said that being in a group of women who are facing similar struggles in their lives would be healing for me.

–side note– I highly recommend finding a counselor you trust whether you are in a peaceful place or at rock bottom. Listen carefully to what he/she says because they are very wise!

He was right. I found myself surrounded by broken souls who were picking up the pieces of their lives and laying them before the Lord. They were becoming strong, whole women.  Women who knew to trust God and themselves. Who took life’s challenges and conquered them.

I attended this particular group for 4 years. I prayed with these women. I cried with them, laughed with them, felt anger with them and felt peace with them. They taught me how grieve well. How to argue well. How to listen well. How to love well. I learned how to be honest with myself and others and how to set boundaries. These incredible women encouraged me and helped me grow into the woman God made me to be.

Recognizing what I was feeling each day – what caused those feelings and how I should respond to those feelings – was one of my first steps toward healing.

I am in a completely different place than I was 5 years ago, but I find that stating my feelings about writing and figuring out why I have these feelings will ultimately help me realize that there is nothing to be fearful of. Because I am a strong, whole woman who can share her story with others. Because this is my story not someone else’s. Because, hopefully, someone else can find healing from reading about how I found mine.

Anxiety

For the last 3 years, I’ve been either pregnant or nursing, and I think those hormones, and a handful of supplements helped me stay emotionally balanced. But now that Weslee has almost weaned, I can feel the unbalance settling in.

My anxiety causes paralyzing fear. I fear failure, rejection, inadequacy, and being overwhelmed. I’m afraid of big things like trying new tasks, being in a large group of people, and having hard conversations, but I’m also afraid of smaller things like doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and cooking dinner. My anxiety causes nausea, tightness in my chest, shortness of breath, shakiness, and a crazy, constant twitch in my left eye. Fear has held me back from improving my photography skills, from writing on this blog, from making close friends. It has even held me back from doing certain activities with my family.

My counselor helped me find tools to keep my anxiety at bay. These tools include prayer, quoting scripture, singing worship songs, taking supplements, alone time, deep breathing, exercise, fresh air, sleep, healthful eating, checking in my feelings with safe people, and doing things that bring joy. These have been life savers for me. But I know these tools are not enough when I have trouble doing them. I have days when it’s hard for me to take deep breaths. I have days when I’m afraid of getting dressed and taking a walk or going to the grocery store. I have other days when I struggle with how I spend my alone time – I know taking care of myself by getting my hair done, giving myself a mani/pedi, taking a long, hot shower help me calm down, but I often find myself lying on the couch watching a movie instead. Sometimes this is okay, but if I continually choose to watch a movie rather than do something I really need, then I know I’m getting in a bad place emotionally.

I’m in a bad place right now. I’ve been really trying to pull myself out of this hole, but I’m not having much success. It’s time for me to step up and admit that I’m no longer in control.

I know some of my friends and family don’t understand this. Some of them believe that if I prayed harder then God would take this from me. But prayer and scripture are the first tools on my checklist. I do believe God helps me because of my prayers, but I also believe he has given our generation medication to help as well. It’s the same as when I give my kids Ibuprofen to bring down a high fever while also praying for God to heal their bodies. Mental illness is an illness just like any other sickness or disease.

So today, I’ve committed to making and appointment with my doctor. I need help, and this is my next right step.

Hello. My name is Cheyenne, and I am a mess.

I have always been the easy-going type who would rather relax and have fun than check things off a to do list. But now that I am a stay at home mom of two children, I have found that some structure and order are necessary. For a while I tried to be very organized and keep to a tight schedule, but I soon realized that that was an impossible task. So now I am just trying to become accomplished in the art of the organized mess.

My life wasn’t always this messy. This time last year things were going fairly well. We were getting settled into our new house, we were adjusting to having two children and we had decided on a new church home. We had a nice rhythm going.

Then I got the phone call that started a lot of my mess. I learned that my dad had passed away. This was a complete shock. A tragedy. The first month following his death went as expected. We made funeral arrangements, grieved with family and stayed surrounded with loved ones. During month number two, my little family settled back into our Illinois home, and I tried to settle back into our normal routine. Month number three rolled around and everything came undone! I sorted through my dad’s belongings, picked out his headstone, and wrote the first check from his life insurance policy, which was probably the hardest of the three. Each time I signed my name on a check, I felt a little more of him slipping away.

I crashed.

We decided Shiloh-Grace was better off in a school rather than learning at home, which went against my ideals of education. But we knew that I was in no state to teach her what she needed to learn at that point.

Homeschooling wasn’t the only change. I quit going to the gym. I quit doing arts and crafts with the kids. I quite cleaning my house, doing laundry, cooking dinner. I quit life.

We found a great therapist for me to talk to. And she helped me in ways I cannot describe. She explained that depression is a type of imbalance in my brain. The emptiness is really a hole in my identity. I put all of my energy into trying to explain and understand the hole. So any energy I normally applied to my faith, motherhood, housekeeping, homeschooling, etc was now applied to this hole. I finally found my way out by regaining my trust in God and constantly telling myself that going to church is who I am, that spending time with my kids is who I am and that being swallowed up by depression is NOT who I am.

I may be out of that hole, but I am still learning to be the Cheyenne I once was. I understand that this tragedy has forever changed some things about me, but I am not convinced that my dad’s passing has forever taken away the joy my family brought me, or the strong beliefs I had on certain issues. I am determined to find my way back to the old me. The Cheyenne who worked hard at a peaceful daily rhythm. The Cheyenne that my husband and children know and love. The Cheyenne who loves laughing with my family. The Cheyenne that is so passionate about Christ and living a life pleasing to him. She is still in here somewhere, and slowly but surely she is emerging.

I started this blog to write these things out. I seem to reflect on my life better when I write everything down and read it back to myself.

I’m not striving for perfection. In fact, I don’t want to be perfect. Character is added by that one little knick in the side of the picture frame or the discoloration from years of weather exposure. I have found some beautiful things while sorting through our mess. We have found a stronger sense of love for family, relationships, and special moments in each day. We have found a new strength in those around us. And we have found greater acceptance with each other and the lovely mess that our family lives.