A mom who likes to live outside the norm

I’m going to let you into my head a little bit

I’ve decided to get really personal with this post, on mental illness.

I’m a person who has struggled for years with mild mental illness (mostly depression and mild anxiety).  I’ve lived my whole life surrounded by people who have dealt with differing forms of mental illness: Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar/Manic Depression, Depression, PTSD, Addiction, etc.  I’ve lived in terror over the last decade of triggering some benign, evil, major mental illness, just waiting to rear it’s ugly head and attack my family.

I’ve heard Christians minimize these diseases, saying things like: Christians don’t get mental illness, they just need to pray harder, or medication is not necessary.  To them I give the examples of David, possibly Paul (the unexplained “thorn in his flesh”), and of Jesus driving out demons (While I do think many were actual demon possession, I can definitely characterize a schizophrenic episode as dealing with a demon).

I’ve had a doctor want to prescribe me medication for my (at that time) mild, seasonal depression.  To him I said “not now”, as I had seen the long term effects of the body tolerating medication and needing ever increasing doses, horrible side effects, and even rejecting the medication altogether (I also didn’t think I had a problem).

So I write this for several reasons: to try to reduce the stigma, to stop hiding, and to help others feel “normal”.  So while this is very personal, if it helped you in any way or you know of someone who it might help, feel free to share it.  These afflictions are a lot more common than most people realize, and yet no one wants to talk about them like they do with cancer or other diseases.   I’m also going to do my best to keep it personal and focus on what I’ve dealt with.

Growing Up

I grew up with a grandmother with Schizophrenia and another relative with Bipolar Disorder (then called Manic Depression).  I would hear stories from my mom about what her mother went through.  I would occasionally hear my grandma say some odd things, or see her deal with medication changes, or dosage adjustments.  I would hear about my relative going days without sleep, and see the massive projects she would undertake.  Let me tell you, I have total respect and awe at what my mother and grandfather went through, dealing with this a few decades ago. Many men would have walked away, and many children would not have been able to bear the added responsibility my mother took on.

I have suspicions that I have other family members that deal with other forms of mental illness, but it was either never diagnosed or never open in the family.

So while this area has always been a “normal” part of my life, I had constant fear, especially in my late teens and early twenties, that I would do something to trigger some horrible gene hiding inside me and I would turn into my grandma or one of my other relatives.  Let me tell you, it is a horrible thing to deal with.  I remember at one point opening up to my dad about this fear I was living with.  I knew that it was when they were in their early twenties, my grandma just starting her family and the other in college, that their illnesses were triggered.

And when I would hear friends say things minimizing these diseases or saying things like “this is something Christians don’t deal with”, I would do my best to not get angry and just share what I had experienced growing up.  I know that their faith and a wonderful walk with their Savior was the only thing that kept my family “together”, along with necessary medication.

I Survived

When I turned 30, I remember this feeling that I’d survived breaking.  My risks of triggering the inner monster were minuscule now.

But did I really?

I’ve always dealt with “down” feelings, being overwhelmed, or being overly stressed. I realize now that I dealt with Post-Partum Depression with my first two children.  I know that when my daughter was a toddler, my doctor offered me medication for my depression, but I shrugged it off because I knew what mental illness really looked like.

A year or so later it all came to a screaming head.  On the outside I had it all together.  I was running a restaurant in a nationwide fast food chain.  I was working 50-60 hours a week.  My bosses praised me, my employees appreciated me (okay, some walked all over me), and my customers loved me.  But I was stretched so thin, barely holding it all together.

I wasn’t sleeping.  I barely saw my kids.  My husband was bottom priority to me.  I was missing a lot of church.  I didn’t have any real friends.  I was smoking.  In hindsight, I think I was even trying to sabotage my marriage.  Everyone important in my life could see how stretched thin and depressed I was.  I was only hiding it from myself.

I finally woke up to it when I realized I was emotionally cheating on my husband and was barely keeping myself from physically cheating on him.  It really hurts to say all this!  We knew something had to give.  So I gave up managing the restaurant.  I tried at first to just go down to part-time, but the environment was not healthy for me.

So I stopped working to stay home with my family.  While finding ways to stretch my family’s budget and naturally help with depression, I stepped into this wonderful world of natural living!

Life Now

I wish I could say all is wonderful.  With my youngest; a wonderful, healing VBA2C, I had my first post-partum period in which I didn’t deal with PPD.  But now that he’s 10 months old, I realize that with all the stressors around me, I’ve recently been experiencing some depression and anxiety.  It seems that even though I’ve found some of my triggers and tried to eliminate them, there are more that I have yet to discover.  Plus, I know that when life seems to be going well, Satan likes to try to make it all fall apart.  So I’m doing my best to try to view these stressors as God pulling me back to Him.

And in the last few years, I’ve seen my grandma (and my family) go through a really tough time.  Her body has completely rejected the medication that has worked for her for years.  It exhibited itself by allergies to foods and clothing that had never been present before.  I see her spiraling deeper into a scary world where she feels she can’t trust the people who love her.  I see my family try to get her help.  I feel my lurking monster inside, trying to resurrect the fear that I could become that.

I understand what she’s going through, afraid of how medication makes her feel. But I also know that she doesn’t understand what her family is going through.  She can’t see how she is when she gets lost inside who she is.  When her biggest enemy is my grandpa, who loves her and just wants to get her real help.  All she can think about in these times is the horror stories of others being institutionalized, or being “doped up”, two things that my grandpa has never done to her.

So I’m thankful I only deal with a minor mental illness.  That can be managed through prayer, diet, elimination of triggers.  I respect anyone who deals with a major illness that tries to make it work through the same mechanisms.  But I also know that in many cases, medication is the only way to effectively deal with it (though prayer and diet definitely helps!).

This is also why I try to make so many things from scratch.  Why I try to eliminate, or at least minimize, as many chemicals in my life as I can.  Why I’ve decided to no longer vaccinate my children.  Why I try to live as naturally as possible.  A small part of it is because I feel like I’m a ticking bomb waiting to be triggered.  But that is also biggest part part of it!  I know that the world around us is a huge factor in all the illnesses that people deal with.  Why should I, when I know first hand what can happen, be willing to let my family be continually exposed to toxins, chemicals, and other triggers that can cause so many issues, many that we don’t even know about, and many that can’t be reversed!

Sorry for the long ramble inside my head.  It’s something that’s been building for awhile.  It’s something that hopefully helps someone see another side to the reasons why I live the way that I do.  And ultimately, helps someone else feel less alone. Because I know that I often do.

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4 thoughts on “I’m going to let you into my head a little bit

  1. Angie on said:

    I have also dealt with some mild depression, and I think maybe post pardem, too. Most significantly was after the miscarriage of my first child. I knew something was wrong and I did take some medication for about 6 months. I’m so had I dd it was just a little helpf through a rough time ….
    Thank you for sharing this. … Very brave of you. And, I love your posts!

  2. As one of those people who really “gets it”, I just wanted to applaud you for being transparent. It’s hard, huh? But freeing, too. It makes us long even more for Christ’s return, where there won’t be mental illness, or toxins, or the need to be vigilant against anything! Looking forward to that day!

  3. I so appreciate it when Christian women are real about mental illness. There has been mental illness in my own family (still is) and I remember my own experience of being hurt, unintentionally, by a well meaning friend who just had no life experience with it before she started forming her firm opinions. I remember her saying that “people with depression just need to have more faith” – and being able to tell her – no, that’s not all it is. My mother is an amazing woman of faith, who prays and reads her Bible daily, has been a deaconess and Sunday school teacher and loving mom – but ya know what – sometimes, despite her faith, because of her genes and environmental stressors – life gets to be too much for her. Sometimes, medicine is the only thing that helps her get out of bed in the morning. Yes praying and having a supportive church family absolutely help and would really never hurt anyone, period. But there is so much more to mental illness than “lack of faith.” Thanks, again, for sharing your story!

    • That’s exactly why I wrote it. I’ve talked to people one on one about my family’s struggles and how this is definitely something Christians deal with. IMO, I think there may even be a higher percentage of Christians, just because it’s something that Satan can use to attack our faith and try to make us a poor witness. My family realized this year that we’ve been hiding too long about what is happening. My grandma has had such a difficult time the last few years. There are so many family members that struggle in different ways (though I don’t know if they’re open with it, so I’ve been very careful to stay discreet), but I realized it was my time to be more open with it. I’ve found that the more involved I am with church, the more I struggle with my particular problems. Be it environmental problems, stretching myself too thin, or spiritual attack, I have no idea. But I personally have a harder time when I try to stay secret about what I struggle with. Thanks for visiting!

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