World Mental Health Day 2017

Y’all. Today is World Mental Health Day, so let’s talk about mental health. Specifically, mental health medication. At this point, I want to put a clear trigger warning that mental illnesses will be discussed throughout this post. Proceed with caution. I also want to point out that any decisions you make about your mental health should be made with your doctor and/or therapist, and that I am not an expert and my experience is in no way a general guidebook of how to handle mental health.

I grew up with mental illnesses during a time when I don’t remember people talking about them. Looking back, I can realize that I had symptoms for a long time before I was able to put a name to them. I just didn’t know what was happening because I didn’t know what mental illness was. I didn’t know that your brain could get sick too. Growing up in the church, I had an experience a lot of people who grow up with mental illness in the church have. I thought I was broken. I thought I was sinning and that God was mad at me. I heard people talking about choosing joy and I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Those were the bad years  – filled with inner turmoil and hidden shame.

Thankfully, the church has gotten better about this. Words like “depression” and “anxiety” aren’t taboo anymore. I often rejoice in the fact that my children will grow up hearing these words spoken from the pulpit.

However, we still have a long way to go, friends. Both in the church and as a society. We talk about mental illness more, but we rarely talk about how to help. We don’t talk about therapy or medication. We don’t talk about the realities of healing from a mental illness. I still get funny looks every time I mention being busy due to having counseling. I still feel the inner shame of discussing medication for my illnesses. We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet.

We talk about and pray for healing in the church a lot. We pray that God would come and touch our minds. That’s awesome. We don’t talk about how God can do that through therapy and medication. That’s not awesome. I’ve personally had well-meaning people within the church tell me that God doesn’t want me to take medication for depression because He is going to heal me. My former college roommate had someone tell her to literally throw her medication away. I’ve heard a lot of prayers for people with physical illnesses talk about God working through the hands of the doctor. I’ve never heard someone ask God to work through the words of a therapist or the chemical effects of an anti-depression medication. Do I believe God can heal and does heal people with mental illness? Yes. Do I think He heals every single person? No. I’ve learned that “healing” can be a journey that consists of a lot of things, such as friends, family members, therapy, medication, etc.

The way we talk about these things matters, people. Stigma exists because we tip-toe around conversations that are hard. I get it. Talking about wanting to die is awkward and uncomfortable. Talking about taking medication to make your brain work can be embarrassing and un-fun. But when we continually ignore questions and conversations like these, we continue to perpetuate the stigma around them. We continue to send the message that mental illness is something to be ashamed about.

I take medications for my mental illness. The last five days, I’ve forgotten to take them because life gets busy and hard. The last two days, I’ve barely eaten anything. I’ve slept a total of seven hours. I can’t quit shaking and my stomach hurts constantly. My thoughts are racing so much that I can’t focus on conversations at work. I’m not looking for pity. I’m getting back on the medication and I will be okay again. I’m trying to convey how important medication can be for people that need it. I spent my whole life wanting to die and once I finally found the right medication for me, I started waking up wanting to live. That’s huge, friends. It’s a big deal. This is a big deal. The words we use, the way we talk about these things – it’s a big deal.

If you’re on medication for mental illness, please know that I see you. I care for you. I am so, so proud of you for the choice you make every single day to keep fighting for your health. I know the journey to getting here wasn’t easy. I know the journey may still not be easy. I know the hard days still come, but I hope they start coming less often. You are on a journey to healing and that is so brave of you. Please, know there is no shame in taking the medication that keeps you healthy. It doesn’t mean that you have less faith or that you are broken or that you don’t believe God can heal you. It means that you are strong. It means that you are amazing. It means that you can make it. I believe in you, friend. You’re doing great.

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Graduation

Trigger Warning – Depression, Anxiety, Self-Harm, Suicide

Yesterday, I “graduated” from counseling. There was no ceremony, no cap and gown, no pictures at the end. There was some celebrating, though, in the form of catching up with an old friend and sitting on the porch late and night with my roommate, talking about life. But I didn’t get flowers or cards, didn’t throw myself a huge party. Maybe I should have. Who knows.

The feeling at the end of the session was bittersweet. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. We talked about diagnoses’ and how they can both help and hurt the patient. I thought of it like “breaking up” with depression and anxiety – a toxic relationship I suddenly began to miss when I started walking away. Healing is hard that way. You somehow have to leave a part of you behind.

I said I was “cautiously optimistic.” I have no idea if this will be my last bout of counseling. I hope it is. But things like depression and anxiety come in waves and it’s hard to know if or when another will hit. That’s the sucky part.

The good part is the progress I’ve made. How far I’ve come in the last year. How I haven’t self-harmed in months, how I’m actually afraid to die for the first time in my life. How the sun hits my skin and I really, truly feel it. How I spend more time out of my bed than in it. How I went from never interacting with people and always skipping youth group to going out for coffee with students all the time and catching up with old friends.

The hard part was the journey. The hard part was the bad days. The hardest part was leaving those behind, beginning to pick myself up piece by piece. There were ups and downs. The medication that gave me terrible nightmares I woke up sweating and screaming from. The other medication that made me try to open a car door while speeding down the highway. Then, the medication that finally helped – one that makes me feel alive and want to stay that way.

I still struggle. I’m not completely healed. I had to take a depression screening the other day and I still answer “yes” when asked if I ever think about hurting myself. But for the first time, it’s not the first thing on my mind. It’s barely a blip on the radar. It’s there, but it doesn’t control me anymore.

I’m finally happy. I’m finally okay with who I am and what I believe in. I’m finally free. I’m not “there” yet. I haven’t “arrived” at where I want to be some day, but I don’t know if I ever will. The difference is I’ve accepted that now. I’m growing. I’m learning. I’m moving forward. For the first time in a long, long time – I’m moving forward. I’m getting better every day. I laugh more now. I dance more now. I talk to God more now. I’m not afraid to meet with God the way I am, all messed up and still alive. I’m not scared of people or what they think anymore. And that’s a really big deal for me.

I notice the progress I’ve made in the little things that add up to big things compared to where I was a year ago. While typing this, my roommate called and I answered the phone. I woke up this morning and got out of bed and didn’t avoid looking in the mirror. I stood up to my boss’s boss last week. I don’t fear cleaning the knives when I do the dishes anymore. I called to make an appointment the other day. I’m making it. I’m not just managing, I’m thriving. I’m living.

I’m alive. I’m alive for the first time in a long, long time. I’m alive and I want to be alive for a long time and I haven’t been able to say that before. I have a hope for the future. I think about getting kids some day. I spend time outside. I can cry and not fear that I won’t stop. I feel things more fully, more deeply now. I listen to music a lot more. I talk a lot more. I know my worth. It’s being alive and it’s incredible and I am so glad I stuck around this long – to finally feel this way.

I’m proud. I’m so ridiculously proud of myself. The journey to get here wasn’t easy. It took years of counseling and hard work and homework assignments to call a friend and failure and tears and medication adjustments. But I stuck it through. Somewhere inside, I knew that I was a cause worth fighting for and I kept fighting.

I graduated counseling yesterday, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever go back. If the feelings come back, I will return. I will adjust my medication, do the homework assignments, stick it out, keep fighting, and I will graduate again. No matter how many times I have to do this. I will keep graduating and some day I will help other’s graduate. Because I know how to fight and I will always, always fight for myself.

“I don’t wanna die today / I don’t wanna die / I finally wanna be alive / I don’t wanna cry anymore / I wanna feel alive / I don’t even wanna die anymore” – Logic

22 Things I Learned At 22

I’ve made it a bit of a personal tradition to post about the things I’ve learned in the past year on or around my birthday. It’s definitely not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I’ll leave out some good ones, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. I’m a day late this year, but my life has been a bit hectic lately (blog post to follow about that), so I’m giving myself a pass. As I look back on my 22nd year of life, I can say it was one of the hardest ones yet. This year was, unfortunately, filled with a lot of mental health problems and heartache. But, we are now in the Twin Cities – and I think that feeling more at home will definitely help with the mental health aspect of things. I am definitely thankful for the things I learned and the people I met/got to know better this past year. It was a growing and learning experience, for sure.  I am so excited to see where this 23rd year takes me as I adventure in my favorite place with my favorite person (shout out to Zeke for being here every step of the way. Love you, babe).

So, without further adieu, here are 22 things I learned at 22:

  1. The first year of marriage is not as difficult as everyone says it is.
  2. Working in retail sucks.
  3. Moving cross-country is a lot more stressful than you’d think.
  4. “Home” is still a very complicated word for me, but I’m so, so glad to be back in the Twin Cities.
  5. Living in a hotel is equally as wonderful and terrible as it sounds.
  6. Hanging out with your old friend(s) from high school just might bring you a new best friend, so be open to the idea.
  7. It’s good to make new traditions with your new little family. Make your husband chicken for Thanksgiving if that’s what it takes.
  8. Your version of Christianity might not look like someone else’s. That’s OK.
  9. It really is OK to form a new belief system as you grow older, and as hard as it can be to defend those beliefs, its worth standing up for what you think is right.
  10. It’s important to forgive yourself.
  11. Go to counseling. Seriously.
  12. Yoga is wonderful.
  13. Recovery looks different for everyone. Be patient. Don’t let anyone look down on your recovery process, and don’t look down on anyone else’s.
  14. Speak kind words often and freely. Don’t be too critical.
  15. Say “please” and “thank you.” You’d be surprised at how many people don’t.
  16. It’s possible to still get heart broken after you’re married. Heartbreak comes in many forms – not just romantically.
  17. It’s OK to take a break.
  18. Create things. In whatever way that looks for you. It’s important.
  19. Being an adult is hard, but you most definitely don’t have to change yourself to fit this perceived “adult” mold. Be responsible, but don’t forget to have fun. Wrestling matches at 2AM are completely acceptable.
  20. Even if your past abusive relationship ended years ago, you can still feel the effects of it. That’s OK. Be patient and let yourself heal. Coming to terms with what happened to you is so, so difficult, but it is so, so worth it. It may still take a few more years to completely heal. Don’t rush yourself.
  21. Eat healthy. Drink water. Exercise. Sleep. Take care of yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  22. Fall in love. Often and with many things. Especially yourself.

 

Dead Gorillas, Scared Toddlers, and Other Things I Care About

I’m mostly making this blog post because it was going to be a Facebook status and then I realized I had a lot more to say than I originally thought, so I believe a blog post may be the better format for sharing my thoughts.

As I’m sure most of you have read on the internet lately, there was recently an accident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving a toddler which resulted in the death of a gorilla. I don’t have much of an opinion on this incident because I haven’t watched the video(s) due to the fact that I hate watching animals die or toddlers be put in danger. I’ve read a few articles about it, though, and the entire situation makes me sad. It makes me sad that the toddler was in danger and it makes me sad that the gorilla had to die. I don’t know if the right decision was made in this case, and I don’t think it really matters at this point. It happened and it’s sad and I do care about it. I care about the poor gorilla that had to die and I care about the poor child and child’s parents and various other witnesses who had to experience such a scary situation.

In the time since this incident, I have seen many posts of two types:

  1. People either defending the zoo for shooting the gorilla or outraged about the death of the gorilla.
  2. People posting about all the other tragic things that have happened during the time the media has covered the story about the gorilla, explaining that we should not care about the gorilla and instead care about [insert other tragic issue]. Example: “During the time you have been freaking out about the dead gorilla x amount of babies have been aborted and you don’t care!”

The second type of post is the post which has gotten me extremely frustrated lately. It is the same type of post I saw when the story about a lion being shot hit the internet a few months ago. I am frustrated by these posts because they assume I am unable to care about multiple issues at the same time.

I am a human being with the capability to simultaneously care about a dead gorilla and starving children or veterans experiencing homelessness or any other number of issues. I care about a lot of things in this world. I care about the gorilla that died. I care about the the child and the parents who had this scary thing happen to them. I care about the babies who have been aborted and I care about the mothers who had to make that impossible decision. I care about the suicide rate among our youth and I care about my mom who is about to have heart surgery.

Just because I am posting about something I care about which has happened recently and been big in the news does not mean I do not care about all the other things happening in this world. And maybe all the posts about all the other things I should be caring about are simply pointing out the lack of media coverage on those issues, and I understand the frustration that comes with that. I understand wanting more media coverage for different types of things, but the media, in part, exists to inform of us of current events – and it just so happens that the gorilla incident was a current event. Were there other current events that could or should have been covered as well? I’m sure there were. But making a blanketed post exclaiming all the things I/we/whoever the post is aimed at should be caring about instead of the gorilla isn’t really doing much to change the things the media is covering. It’s only making me, and perhaps others, frustrated at the fact that it is assumed we are unable to care about more than one thing at a time. I assure you, I can, and do, care about multiple things at once.

Also, I would like to point out that this is actually the first post I made about the gorilla incident. 😉

#lawsons1st

This night last year, I was saying “goodnight” to Zeke and leaving to a separate room for the last time. We had only been back in the same state for three weeks since ending our year of long-distance, so I wanted to soak up every second together. It was hard, as it always was, to say “goodnight” and walk away from each other, but I was filled with joy knowing it would be the last time we’d have to. I didn’t sleep that night – I was far too excited and filled with pre-wedding jitters. I spent the night with three of my closest friends in a hotel, and the next day was the greatest day of my life.

Our wedding was a beautiful day. It was the accumulation of months of hard work and planning done by myself and my family. I hated wedding planning and I will never do it again, but the wedding day was so perfect. It went by too quickly and not fast enough all at once. I cried a lot of happy tears that day but that single, beautiful day is nothing compared to what the following 366 (thanks, leap year!) days were.

After that day, there was the honeymoon – a week-long vacation without any connection to the outside world. We ate wonderful food and soaked up each other’s presence, learning to not be afraid of having to say goodbye again, a nasty little habit we picked up during the year of long-distance before the wedding. Then, there was the drive home and the stop in Nashville. Then, the fourth of July – my favorite holiday. We made the adults angry that day by driving too fast blasting patriotic songs and I took Zeke tubing with me for the first time – an annual family tradition he was now welcome on. Then came the day we moved into our first apartment, and he carried me through the doorway. My birthday followed soon after, and we danced by the river with no music. Then were the days of adjusting to separate work schedules and communicating with notes left around the house. After that came Halloween when I somehow convinced Zeke to wear a couple’s costume with me.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving together the day before Thanksgiving because we both worked the day of and I remember being thankful for a man who doesn’t mind eating chicken since he would never eat a whole turkey by himself. We spent the morning before work watching the parade on our couch in our pajamas. Then, came our first Christmas together and I completely surprised him with an Apple TV while he got me a Nintendo DS. Our cat ate an entire bag of catnip that night. New Year’s was spent at a friend’s house playing games and laughing with each other. He drove me home and I thought about how in love I still felt. His birthday came and went too quickly – lost a bit in the midst of holiday craziness. We vowed not to make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, and we didn’t – but we somehow stumbled upon one of the fanciest restaurants I’ve ever been to just minutes before it closed.

Then came the harder months – a blur of sad days and bad mental health days. Zeke took care of me best he could and our marriage didn’t suffer one bit, but I struggled to stay alive, which is hard for everyone involved. We’re still kind of in those hard days, but each day gets a little brighter, I think. It goes back and forth a bit but I think I’m getting there.

These past 366 days have been the best days of my life. They have been filled with the greatest adventure I have ever been on – being in love with my best friend. This year has been full of dancing in the kitchen, wrestling in the living room, laughing in the car, chasing each other through the grocery store, binge watching TV shows together, and falling more in love every day. I have cried more happy tears in this past year than I have in my entire life. I have come home every single night to a man who loves me and will do anything for me. This has been the easiest year of my life. Whoever says the first year of marriage is the hardest one is nuts, in my opinion. It’s so, so easy living in love with the best man I have ever known and I would never have it any other way.

Thank you for filling me with blessing upon blessing, Zeke. Loving you is the best thing I have ever done and the grandest adventure I have ever been on. Thank you for being by my side always. One year down and an entire lifetime of adventures to go. I’m so excited to see where year two takes us.

(Minneapolis, please? 😉 )

Thank You, Zeke

Zeke and I wrote our own vows for our wedding. It was the only secret we kept from each other until the big day. We gave each other a rough estimate of length so I wouldn’t be stuck saying a few sentences in response to his paragraphs, but that was it. I will always remember the words Zeke said to me that day. He stood in front of our closest friends and family and promised to love me for the rest of his life. He vowed many things, but perhaps the part that meant the most to me was the way he addressed my struggle with mental illness. He didn’t shy away from words like “depression” “anxiety” and “suicide.” He spoke them, out loud, and still stood proud and happy to be my husband. He talked about the way he would help me fight and would fight for me on the days that were too hard. I said a similar thing in response, even though we hadn’t planned it at all. Zeke and I have never been afraid of talking about the hard things and sometimes that gets us in trouble. But that day, it was exactly what I needed. And every single day after, he has been exactly what I needed.

We are coming up on a whole year of marriage in May and I can not believe how fast it has flown by. People say the first year of marriage is the hardest and I hope that’s true because we sure do have an easy road ahead if it is. All joking aside, this year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. Marriage is the greatest adventure out there. I get to wake up next to my best friend every single day. I have someone who smells my morning breath and still wants to kiss me at night. I have someone who is always there to laugh at my lame jokes and narrate my cat’s life with me. I will never have to watch an episode of Leverage alone again. I am weird and he is more weird and it’s wonderful living with someone that weird.

Marriage is wonderful. This past year has been wonderful. Mental illness is not wonderful. Living with depression and anxiety is not wonderful. Having to love someone who struggles with depression and anxiety is not wonderful. It means you get pushed away – a lot. It means you get yelled at for things that are not your fault by a girl who feels trapped in her head. It means you have to work extra hard to keep your spouse alive and fighting for a life she doesn’t want to live some days. It means you have to go the extra mile every single day, even when you are exhausted, and often without thanks. Zeke vowed that he would love me in the midst of all of it and he has spent every day making good on that promise. Every morning, he renews his vows to me by loving me at my worst. I don’t know how it feels to be him in this relationship. I don’t know what it’s like to watch my partner fall apart, but I know it can’t be easy trying to keep them together.

So, today, I’d like to say thank you, Zeke.

Thank you for loving your depressed wife. Thank you for running a bath and lighting candles and filling the apartment with worship music when you know I haven’t had the strength to shower in days. Thank you for cooking me dinner for the third night in a row when you get home from a 16-hour shift because you know I probably forgot to eat. Thank you for ordering me food at work when you’re away. Thank you for cleaning the apartment without complaint when my laundry piles up so much you can’t walk through the bedroom door. Thank you for holding me when you come home to a wife lying on the couch covered in a puddle of tears. Thank you for calling me to remind me to go outside before the sun sets. Thank you for doing yoga with me in the mornings even though you hate it. Thank you for letting me yell at you more often than I should. Thank you for making me get out of bed even when I’m yelling at you for it.

Thank you for loving your anxious wife. Thank you for texting me when you get to work. Every day. Thank you for checking to make sure the door is locked. Every night. Thank you for finding a phone to call me with when you don’t have phone service somewhere (thanks, T-Mobile). Thank you for talking me through every worst-case scenario until three in the morning. Thank you for asking questions for me. Thank you for making calls for me. Thank you for answering my phone when I don’t know the caller. Thank you for texting people behind my back when I don’t know how to talk to them. Thank you for pushing me to order my own food.

Thank you for loving your wife who is having a good day. Thank you for being goofy with me. Thank you for laughing at my Galileo joke for the 700th time. Thank you for looking me like the sun when I find the strength to smile. Thank you for going on ridiculous adventures with me, even when you work early in the morning. Thank you for going to the zoo with me 6,000 times. Thank you for riding roller coasters you really, really don’t want to ride. Thank you for letting me dream and for watching the Disney DVD with me at least once a month. Thank you for tactfully talking me down from buying the cheap plane tickets I found for tomorrow to (insert location here). Thank you for saving your pennies and budgeting out money for our adventure fund when you know it’s secretly just a Disney World fund.  Thank you for letting me wrestle you when I have too much energy. Thank you for laughing with me. Every day.

Thank you for loving your wife. Thank you for loving me for me, no matter where I am. Thank you for not letting me stay there. Thank you for calling me out on my bull. Thank you for yelling back. Thank you for pushing me forward. Thank you for making me get help. Thank you for urging me to take my meds. Thank you for driving me to counselors appointments. Thank you for not being mad at me when I quit going to counseling. Thank you for making me go back to counseling. Thank you for knowing what you signed up for and not running the other way when you saw me coming down the aisle. Thank you for always, always making me laugh. Thank you for being a feminist. Thank you for getting angry with me about the things I get angry about. Thank you for supporting me in my passions. Thank you for making me go to church. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for leading me closer to Christ.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally and without hesitation. Every day.

This marriage thing is the best thing I have ever been a part of. I love you more than words could ever say.

Thank you.

No, I’m Not Doing Well (And, Maybe, Neither Are You)

A few days ago, my beloved dog, Nali, passed away. She was the greatest dog I have ever known. I don’t like dogs, but I loved her with all my heart. On Sunday, she stopped eating and my parents let me know they were taking her to the vet. On Monday, the vet told us she had a tumor and was bleeding internally. We decided to put her down on Tuesday. Monday night, I worked until 9:30 and drove to Ann Arbor to say goodbye in case she didn’t make it through the night. I drove home that night, worked 8:30-3:30 the next day, and then drove back up to say goodbye as we put her down. It was awful and truly one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience.

I work as a manager at a retail store, so my job is to be happy – even when everyone around me isn’t. Even when customers are screaming at me, even when my life is falling apart, even when I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the day – I have to stand, smiling and unshaken. And that’s okay. It’s my job and it’s a lot of other peoples’ jobs and most days it doesn’t bother me. I knew what I was signing up for when I took this job. On Monday and Tuesday, my job was almost impossible.

I ask everyone that walks in how they are doing, and if they ask how I’m doing in response, I’ll always say that I’m doing well. I say it with a smile. Even when I literally just came out of the back with snot running out my nose and tears streaming down my face. I wipe it away, smile, and say I’m doing just fine. And the people I ask do the same thing.

This doesn’t just happen at work. It happens at church, too. It happens in the grocery store. It happens when I get drinks with my friends. It happens when I’m filling my tank. It happens on my social media posts. It happens everywhere, every day, with every person I interact with. We say we’re doing well and I’m doing well and you’re doing well and it’s one huge load of crap. We’re lying – to each other, and to ourselves. Because maybe if we say it enough times, it will start to be true. And maybe if we say it enough times, we won’t feel bad about lying anymore. Maybe we won’t feel bad about not asking again anymore, either. Because we’re selfish and we’re scared and we don’t want to know about other people’s problems and we don’t want to share our own.

If I learned anything (and I learned a whole lot) during my time as an intern at TWLOHA, it’s that people need other people. It’s that we aren’t meant to do this life thing alone. It’s that we are all broken people and we are meant to hold each other in our brokenness and we are meant to carry each other’s burdens. And that all sounds wonderful and beautifully poetic until stuff gets real and your dog is dying or your finances are falling apart or you’re getting a divorce or your kids are addicted to drugs or your dad is turning into an alcoholic or, or, or… and you have to start actually relying on other people to carry that stuff. Relying on other people is hard. And being the person someone else relies on is hard, too. But it’s necessary. If we don’t start relying on each other and being honest, we’re just going to keep falling apart. We’re not going to make it without the help of one another, and we can’t help each other until we start telling the truth.

Today, a man came into my store and I asked how he was doing. He looked at me and said, “I’m doing well… Well, actually I’m not. But that’s just what we say, isn’t it?” And I smiled. Not because I was happy that this guy was having a crappy day, but because this guy was the first person to honestly answer that question. It was a breath of fresh air. So, in honor of that random stranger who was brave enough to tell me the truth, I’d like to step out and do some truth-telling of my own:

I’m not doing well. I haven’t been in quite some time. It’s not because my dog died. I miss my dog, I do. But it’s not because my dog died. It’s because I have to live with an illness that takes over my mind and steals my joy and that’s a hard thing to fight every day. So, no, I’m not doing well. But I’m making it through. I’m working on myself and I’m working on viewing myself as a work in progress. I’m spending more time with my Jesus and that helps a lot. I’m going to start looking for a counselor again, and I’m going to ask Zeke to help me remember to take my meds. I’m not okay, and I can’t even say that I’m getting there, because I don’t feel like I am. But I’m still fighting. I’m still here, and I’m not planning on going anywhere soon. I’m victorious, even though I don’t feel like it.

And I’m working on being honest. But no, I’m not doing well.

For The Long Nights

I know, they come more often than not these days. The nights that never seem to end. The days that feel just as long: the way 24 hours has never felt so heavy. And each day, it seems there is an added weight to bear. You remember – nights didn’t used to be this long, did they? There were days filled with the summer sun shining through the curtains: an invitation to come out and play, and it was so easy then to oblige. You remember nights spent star-gazing with friends and long midnight drives with no destination in mind. It didn’t matter, though, you weren’t lost then. The nights were short, not quite long enough.

And, still, it was there – gnawing at the back of your mind – a reminder that this sickness is incurable, that it will come back no matter how much you deny the fact. The nights will be long again. The days, unending. You will once again suffocate underneath the weight of it all. You tried, oh, you tried so hard to hold onto those short days. You took pictures in your mind, snippets to grasp for the nights to come. The way the salt water tasted on your lips, the dull ache of your sunburn – proof you had found sunlight and felt warmth at one time. You remember the scream you let out of joy at crossing the finish line, the sound of your best friend singing along to your favorite song. Now, that song is overplayed and you always turn the radio off when it comes on.

Maybe you don’t want to remember. The stark contrast of those days to these ones just brings more heartache. But, you also remember days when you couldn’t remember the good ones. Nights when there was no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope to grab ahold of. So maybe remembering is okay. But even this is a double-edged sword: a reminder that it’s not quite that bad, but it always gets worse. It always comes back, each time far more difficult to navigate than the last.

Yes, these nights are the long ones. And this is for those long nights. For the times when depression is your best friend, your lover, your caretaker. It takes such good care of you, wrapping you in blankets and turning off all the lights. It brings sleep for days and takes it away for weeks. It turns the face in the mirror into something you can not recognize – a lifeless form staring back at you. This is for when it reminds you that it can get worse, will get worse, every day is worse. For when it makes baths lukewarm and somehow impairs your ability to taste or to remember to taste or to remember to do anything but sleep and cry and repeat.

This is for the nights when anxiety reaches out to your with its lanky fingers, slowly wrapping around your neck, taking the breath from your lungs. This is for when your ears try so, so hard to hear your loved ones calling out for you, but can’t hear anything over the sound of that darn racing heartbeat. This is for the sleepless nights spent going over everylittlething everylittlething everylittlething because something went wrong some where. For when your stomach turns into knots you can’t figure out how to untangle.

This is for the nights when the two intertwine and attack at once. For when you feel worthless for not getting out of bed but yet can not make yourself wake up. For when you fear your illnesses are driving everyone away but yet you are still unable to make a phone call. When all forces are against you and all you can do is take it.

Yes, these nights are the long ones. And they only seem to get longer, I know. We never foresee the short ones. We never anticipate the good, but sometimes it can sneak up on us. But this isn’t for the short nights – this is for the long ones.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to feel the things you do. You’re not broken, you’re not a mistake. It’s okay to ache, it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay. You are okay. And maybe you’re not okay today, maybe you won’t be okay tomorrow, maybe you won’t be okay this year – and that is okay, because some day, some way, you will be okay. And I know that’s hard to believe but I have to believe it is true, because you get up every single day and fight the same battle and you are still here fighting and that counts for something. That means something. And it must mean that some time, maybe not soon, but some time, the nights will be short again – and you will yearn for more hours in the day.

I see you. I know, we’ve all done a very poor job of acknowledging your illness. We’ve all felt the weight of the stigma that surrounds words like “clinical depression.” We’ve all denied our need for therapy or medication because of that stigma at some point or another. I know about the well-meaning people who give you quick verses about the joy that you can never find and how that only reminds you of the sadness. But I see you. I hear you. Your pain is real. You are important. You mean something. You have infinite worth. I once heard someone say, “Since the day you were born, I haven’t taken a breath in a world without you in it,” and that’s stuck with me. I hope it sticks with you today.

You are going to make it. This night is long. This night is unending. Each second takes hours, but you are going to make it out of this. Some day, you will wake up and the sun will shine again. Until then, when the weight is too heavy to bear, I will carry it for you. You’ve carried mine before and that has made all the difference.

Please, hold on, my dear. Tomorrow night might be a second shorter than tonight.

 

 

Six Things I Want To Do In 2016

Hi, friends! It’s been a while since I posted on here. Zeke and I have decided to not get WiFi at our apartment and instead use that money to help pay off our student loans, so I don’t get a lot of time to just sit and be on the internet. Today, my phone stopped working, so I decided to get to some WiFi to let Zeke know I’m okay and Tim Horton’s sounded wonderful, so here I am – finally writing a blog post I’ve been wanting to get around to writing for a few weeks now.

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love fireworks, parties, and watching the ball drop, and I love the idea of new beginnings – a blank slate, time to start again. Four years ago, I made a resolution to become a vegetarian for a year, and I haven’t purposely eaten meat since that day. I love resolutions, but my mental health is not top-notch at this moment, so instead of making one giant resolution, I’ve decided to instead make six small ones. Here it goes, in no particular order.

1. Stop saying “sorry” so much. I apologize for everything, and then I apologize for apologizing. It’s partially due to my anxiety and partially due to the fact that I was raised by the patriarchal society in America that has taught me I’m not worth anyone’s time. As a feminist, I need to start putting my money where my mouth is and cut this word out of my vocabulary.

2. Call out sexism when I see it. Hi, catcallers – I’m done saying “thank you” when you sexually harass me on the street, at work, etc. Hey, friend of a friend dude bro at the party, I’m not going to sit and listen to you make that rape joke without explaining exactly why it’s not funny and I will NOT laugh at it.

3. Stop feeling ashamed of getting the help I need. The other day, I had an emotional breakdown and I called work saying I had a stomachache instead of saying that I needed to take a mental health day. I, a person who fights for ending the stigma of mental illness, am afraid to admit when I’m struggling and needing help, and that should stop. I also need to work on giving myself grace when I am unable to admit the struggle I am facing.

4. Be well. I thought of calling this “lose weight,” but I think part of being wholly well – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – is to stop letting myself be defined by anything other than what the Lord calls me. I want to improve my health in all areas, taking small steps and celebrating each and every one.

5. Write more. I used to write all the time, and I haven’t at all lately. Zeke always jokes that I’m going to publish a book someday and make us rich, and although we all know that won’t happen, I still want to get back into taking time each day to write.

6. Find a purpose. I’ll be honest, life after graduating has been rough. It was always easy throughout school to see what my current goal was. Finish this semester, graduate, get into the internship at TWLOHA, get married, etc. Now I’m in this weird place in life where I have a job, am done with school, am married to my best friend, and have a nice apartment. I don’t really know what I’m working towards at the moment, and that is tough to realize. This year, I want to take time to figure myself out.

Well, there it is, friends. I’m excited to tackle this new year and see what it brings me. What are some of your resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

 

I’m Feelin’ 22!

I love everything about Taylor Swift and I love birthdays, so I’m pretty excited about this next year of life. Last year, I celebrated by getting a few of my favorite people together and volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and then, of course, got half-off apps at Applebee’s. It was the start of a truly great year. In my 21st year of life, I have gotten engaged, graduated from college a semester early, landed my dream internship, got married, and moved into a new apartment. I laughed a lot, cried a lot, and experienced everything fully. I met people I will cherish for the rest of my life and I started the most amazing journey I’ve ever been on. It’s been wonderful.

As I look forward to 22, I hope to continue to live life to the fullest and cherish every moment. I hope to love more deeply and laugh more often. I hope to stay true to myself always and never settle for less than my best. I hope I learn more and find out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I don’t really know where I’m going to end up at the end of the year, but I hope it’s somewhere beautiful (Minneapolis, please?) and with my favorite guy by my side.

Last year, I wrote this blog post about 20 things I learned when I was 20, and I want to do the same this year. Twenty-one was a really good year for me, and I was able to learn a lot, so here we go!

Twenty-one things I learned when I was 21 (in no particular order):

  1. Satan created wedding planning and the wedding is just one day. Focus more on planning for the marriage than planning for the party.
  2. Your wedding day will truly be the most joyful day of your life. Cherish every second because it does go by very quickly!
  3. Distance sucks, whether it is between friends or partners, but if you find someone worth fighting it for – fight like mad and hold onto them with all you’ve got because they are truly special.
  4. God loves people far deeper than I ever could, and His grace is more than enough for any one of us – so I have no room to judge whatsoever.
  5. If you work very hard on something, you won’t care what other people think about it as long as it is something you’re proud of in the end.
  6. Good roommates are hard to find. When you find them, put off working on your senior project to talk about mental health in the Bible, go to Taco Bell at midnight, and laugh about your oh-so-whimsical life. You’re gonna miss them when this season is over.
  7. Above all else – cherish the people you are with. Goodbyes are hard and they never get easier.
  8. Leggings aren’t pants, but don’t let that stop you from wearing them when slut-shaming and victim-blaming disguised as articles about modesty flood your newsfeed. You are not responsible for the actions of anyone but yourself.
  9. Find community in what you are passionate about. Staying up until 4 in the morning talking about feminism and destroying rape culture will bring you some of your greatest friends.
  10. Sometimes, you don’t have the words to say – but sometimes, you do. Words are powerful and they can make someone hold on for another day. Use them wisely.
  11. It was worth it.
  12. Just because you can legally do something doesn’t mean you should.
  13. Disney World is still the most magical place in the world.
  14. It is important to learn to say “no,” and it is equally as important to learn to accept that as an answer.
  15. Depression still sucks, and you will be okay. You can make it to tomorrow.
  16. There are about 500 stages of grief. It’s okay if you’re not as far along as you think you should be.
  17. “Home” is sometimes a very complicated and difficult word and that’s okay.
  18. You are worth celebrating.
  19. Marriage is the most grand and wonderful adventure out there. It doesn’t mean you’re “settling down” or “giving up your life,” it just means you get to add someone else to your adventures. People will tell you that you’re too young and those people are wrong.
  20. Money sucks and there’s never enough of it.
  21. Being a feminist isn’t easy. It means ripping out the internalized misogyny within yourself and un-learning all that rape culture has taught you. It’s still worth it.