A Prayer For Depression

Dear God,

I feel such pain, anxiety and depression.
I know this is not Your will for me, and yet my mind is held in chains by fear and paranoia.
I surrender my life, right now, to You.
Take the entire mess, all of it, now too complicated to explain to anyone but known by You in each detail.
Do what I cannot do.
Lift me up.
Give me a new chance.
Show me a new light.
Make me a new person.

-Marianne Williamson in her book “Illuminata.”

Amanda McNeal

My Hurting World

I live in a world of uncertainty. We all do. However sometimes that certainty wraps me and takes me to a place I do not want to go.

The world feels like thorns
Racing inside my mind
Penetrating my body with pain.

The world sounds of war
Harsh and piercing to my ears
Invading any peace I have found.

The world tastes of rotting hope
Deepening the fear that lies within me
That will eventually envelope my soul.

The world smells of fire and rain
Divided black and white
Closing my lips and slowly suffocating me.

The world is covered in a blanket of cold fog
That wraps around my spine
Tarnishing the gold inside. 

We Are All Virginias

Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl with the world at her fingertips. She laughed and sang and the whole world watched. She was strong and intelligent and her light beamed. But slowly she let the dark world take hold and fell into a life she did not want. She was paralyzed by comfort and what she felt was safe. She was looked at as a strong queen that the world bowed down to. In the world’s  eyes she had it all but in her eyes she had nothing. Her dream was to become what she once wanted – a lover, an explorer, a healer, a friend and a lover. She wanted to drown in the passion she once knew.  She was torn between two worlds – the fake world she was dying in and the world she dreamed of. Her true self screamed and screamed until she finally broke free and realized the beauty in dancing to her own beat of the drum.

———————
“I don’t really want to live this life.”

-Virginia

I’m not a big Train fan at all. I remember my friend in PART 2 of college that loved them. I never understood. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t being who I wasn’t then – I mean I was being the most me I had ever been and God it was amazing. There was a freedom that I felt for the first time ever. I had my wings spread far and wide and everything within that was mine to have and hold. I no longer longed for a boy that didn’t want me. I no longer felt under my dad’s hand. I no longer worried what people thought. It was all gone. All the dark. All the pain. All that remained was light. Beautiful white light. My dream had changed and I embraced the freedom within it. I had know the loss of dreams. I now knew of the hope of dreams.

I had begun to understand religion and spirituality. I was mesmerized by this and followed Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson. I had faith in something bigger than me then. I was drawn to those very similar to me and we had amazing conversations and adventures. I was no longer under a society induced sorority that forced me to be a certain way which I was not. I no longer wanted what was not mine to have but instead dream a dream that no one could stop once my wings took flight. Yet those dreams didn’t come to fruition.

Then real life took hold. I somehow fell down a rabbit hole and falling I did until this year. I gave up Boston to chase after a love that wasn’t meant to be which in the end was not for me. I became scared and isolated in a big city. Fear crept in. When I tried to re-open my wings again I was not strong enough. I didn’t believe in me a bit. I was a big fish in a little pond and was now swimming in the deepest part of the ocean with the sharks approaching.  I had  dreams die and tried to find a new one. My dreams screamed and changed as I stumbled down a path that I never felt sure of. I tiptoed around corners and stood lost and intersections.  To this day I’m still trying to figure out a dream. Maybe it’s writing this book or blog or whatever this post becomes. However this time of loss I discovered love again with my husband and two beautiful girls. I digress.

I no longer want to be Queen Virginia and with turning 38 today I say farewell to her. Life is too short to be sitting in your closet screaming while holding your crown in your hand.

No longer will I worry about how I look to others on the outside but how I shine to them when we meet. No longer will I focus on expectations of me but rather my dreams in me. No longer will I value me based on what society thinks I should be doing but instead my value on what I give to my home and world that radiates from it. No longer will I allow myself to get lost in the craziness of this world. Heaven is out there and peace resides there. Crowns don’t get you to that place but only blind you. I’ve been blind for way too long.

I have been both Virginia’s. I have held tight to both of them as well. We as women must choose which one. There is no teetering on the line holding our bare foot to one side while counterbalancing with our crown in the other hand. One Virginia holds that crown tight with blood pouring from her hands sacrificing who she is for the “greater” good. The other walks softly with open hands and sacrificing what she can not take with her instead of who she is now.

Step over the safe line and live in the freedom and glory. My wish is for all women to find the beauty in being you.  Glorious and wonderful you. Glorious and wonderful Virginia.

Warmly,

Amanda

Make A Miracle

“Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.”

-Jon Bon Jovi

Sometimes one realizes they need a change to take the next step in their transformation. Sometimes we don’t really know what that is but with faith divine interventions can happen. This is when miracles happen.

Last year my husband and I planned a weekend away – sort of impromptu.  We had the babysitter planned for over a month – that’s what you do when you have a 4 and 6 year old. So early Friday morning I woke up with a mission – book a trip away because this momma needed a break and to be honest our marriage needed a break from the demands of life. Thank goodness for the Internet. In twenty minutes I decided we were going to Cancun (skip Colorado – we are heading to sun and sand). After a mad dash to get everyone to school and us packed as well, we booked our hotel while on the interstate making our way to the airport. Somehow we made it on time with only a few minutes to spare. At our layover our babysitter shared she couldn’t stay on the last night so sitting on the tarmac I was hastily sending texts and emails to everyone who could possibly watch the girls. Landing in Mexico our phones and credit cards wouldn’t work so somehow we made it to the hotel and an old babysitter was excited to watch the girls that last night.

This was a miracle. A total shift in my thinking and doing. That is what a miracle is – a shift in thinking. Each of us are capable of miracles each day – or at least I believe that. No miracle is small or big – they are all miracles.

Old me would have never left the country without definite plans but inside I knew this was time for me to go and participate in a new moment of healing. Old me would have hopped on a plane back to Nashville once I found out my babysitter couldn’t stay. Old me would have immediately thought I could not depend on others – some can look at it as careless – however my husband encouraged me to have faith while he was dragging me on the plane.  You have friends that love you and will help you and they did.  After the drama of getting there we arrived at paradise. This trip helped me overcome many fears. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of the unknown. Fear of others.

There’s even a bonus to this trip. While there we met a couple from our city. What were the odds? Her coming up and introducing herself to Jarred and I set in motion a series of events that shifted the course of my life. The day before I had wanted to be a part of the pool volleyball match below our deck but was too inhibited. There was a pool of women – beautiful women. I was not confident enough. However I put the energy out in the world that I wanted to be down there and the next day we met Kelly and Mark who were in that crowd. They took us under their wings and supported us that day while we threw caution to the wind – we haven’t thrown caution to the wind since our honeymoon.

I now have a new friendship with an amazing woman and my husband has a Bromance. I have since returned again to renew my soul and will be again in April (a year from the first trip). I have discovered a place where I can find parts of me that get lost here in everyday life.

I can’t say enough to a couple to just take the plunge. Open your mind, open you heart and open yourself up to new possibilities. Test you soul, test your strength, test your heart and test your fears!

Warmly,

Amanda

Demons

When I first heard this song this song last week I was in the car with my daughters. I immediately felt the tears began to well up in my eyes.  They see me cry often however I didn’t not want them to think of me that way at school. I quickly turned the station.

During my Friday morning run it came up on my playlist. I cried. I ran and I cried. I pushed harder and cried harder. I screamed. I ran. I screamed more and ran harder. God it felt good.

We are not alone. So many songs come from the pain, depression, anger, and loss of others. Yet we listen to these songs for their beat but not the words that are there to lift us and reassure us that we are not alone. Music therapy is a real therapy that we can practice on our own. Take a moment today to stop and listen to the words. You will find a part of you that you may not know is there or even a memory that brings you a smile. We just have to stop listen to the words and realize we are not alone.

Demons

They say don’t let them in.
Close your eyes and clear your thoughts again.
When I’m all alone, they show up on their own.

Cause inner demons fight their battles with fire.
Inner demons don’t play by the rules.
They say just push them down, just fight them harder.
Why would you give up on it so soon?
So angels, angels please just keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
The demons they are there; they keep on fighting.
Cause inner demons just wont go away.
So angels please, hear my prayer.
Life is pain, lifes not fair.
So angels please; please stay here.
Take the pain; take the fear.

They say it wont be hard; they cant see the battles in my heart
But when I turn away
The demons seem to stay
Cause inner demons don’t play well with angels.
They cheat and lie and steal and break and bruise.
Angels please protect me from these rebels.
This is a battle I don’t want to lose.
So angels, angels please just keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
Cause the demons they are there; they keep on fighting.
Cause Inner demons just wont go away.

 

Angels, angels please keep on fighting. Keep on fighting.
Angels don’t give up on me today.
Cause the demons; they are there.
They keep on fighting.
Inner demons just wont go away.

So angels please, hear my prayer.
Life is pain; lifes not fair.
So angels please; please stay here.
Take the pain; take the fear.

-Julia Brennan

Here’s your challenge today. Take a moment today to stop and listen to the words. You will find a part of you that you may not know is there or even a memory that brings you a smile. We just have to stop listen to the words and realize we are not alone.

Warmly,

Amanda

Exercise and Mental Illness Make A Great Pair

When Jennifer Carter, PhD, counsels patients, she often suggests they walk as they talk. “I work on a beautiful wooded campus,” says the counseling and sport psychologist at the Center for Balanced Living in Ohio.

Strolling through a therapy session often helps patients relax and open up, she finds. But that’s not the only benefit. As immediate past president of APA’s Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology), she’s well aware of the mental health benefits of moving your muscles. “I often recommend exercise for my psychotherapy clients, particularly for those who are anxious or depressed,” she says.

Unfortunately, graduate training programs rarely teach students how to help patients modify their exercise behavior, Carter says, and many psychologists aren’t taking the reins on their own. “I think clinical and counseling psychologists could do a better job of incorporating exercise into treatment,” she says.

“Exercise is something that psychologists have been very slow to attend to,” agrees Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University. “People know that exercise helps physical outcomes. There is much less awareness of mental health outcomes — and much, much less ability to translate this awareness into exercise action.”

Researchers are still working out the details of that action: how much exercise is needed, what mechanisms are behind the boost exercise brings, and why — despite all the benefits of physical activity — it’s so hard to go for that morning jog. But as evidence piles up, the exercise-mental health connection is becoming impossible to ignore.

Mood enhancement

If you’ve ever gone for a run after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” Otto says. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression.

Some of the evidence for that comes from broad, population-based correlation studies. “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.

The evidence comes from experimental studies as well. Blumenthal has explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials. In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, Blumenthal found, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise, he concluded, was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).

Blumenthal followed up with the patients one year later. The type of treatment they received during the four-month trial didn’t predict remission a year later, he found. However, subjects who reported regular exercise at the one-year follow-up had lower depression scores than did their less active counterparts (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2010). “Exercise seems not only important for treating depression, but also in preventing relapse,” he says.

Certainly, there are methodological challenges to researching the effects of exercise, from the identification of appropriate comparison groups to the limitations of self-reporting. Despite these challenges, a compelling body of evidence has emerged. In 2006, Otto and colleagues reviewed 11 studies investigating the effects of exercise on mental health. They determined that exercise could be a powerful intervention for clinical depression (Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2006). Based on those findings, they concluded, clinicians should consider adding exercise to the treatment plans for their depressed patients.

Mary de Groot, PhD, a psychologist in the department of medicine at Indiana University, is taking the research one step further, investigating the role exercise can play in a particular subset of depressed patients: those with diabetes. It’s a significant problem, she says. “Rates of clinically significant depressive symptoms and diagnoses of major depressive disorder are higher among adults with diabetes than in the general population,” she says. And among diabetics, she adds, depression is often harder to treat and more likely to recur. The association runs both ways. People with diabetes are more likely to develop depression, and people with depression are also more likely to develop diabetes. “A number of studies show people with both disorders are at greater risk for mortality than are people with either disorder alone,” she says.

Since diabetes and obesity go hand-in-hand, it seemed logical to de Groot that exercise could effectively treat both conditions. When she reviewed the literature, she was surprised to find the topic hadn’t been researched. So, she launched a pilot project in which adults with diabetes and depression undertook a 12-week exercise and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention program (Diabetes, 2009). Immediately following the program, the participants who exercised showed improvements both in depression and in levels of A1C, a blood marker that reflects blood-sugar control, compared with those in a control group. She’s now undertaking a larger study to further explore exercise and CBT, both alone and in combination, for treating diabetes-related depression.

Fight-or-flight

Researchers have also explored exercise as a tool for treating — and perhaps preventing — anxiety. When we’re spooked or threatened, our nervous systems jump into action, setting off a cascade of reactions such as sweating, dizziness, and a racing heart. People with heightened sensitivity to anxiety respond to those sensations with fear. They’re also more likely to develop panic disorder down the road, says Jasper Smits, PhD, Co-Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and co-author, with Otto, of the 2011 book “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-being.”

Smits and Otto reasoned that regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience those fight-or-flight sensations. After all, the body produces many of the same physical reactions — heavy perspiration, increased heart rate — in response to exercise. They tested their theory among 60 volunteers with heightened sensitivity to anxiety. Subjects who participated in a two-week exercise program showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity compared with a control group (Depression and Anxiety, 2008). “Exercise in many ways is like exposure treatment,” says Smits. “People learn to associate the symptoms with safety instead of danger.”

In another study, Smits and his colleagues asked volunteers with varying levels of anxiety sensitivity to undergo a carbon-dioxide challenge test, in which they breathed CO2-enriched air. The test often triggers the same symptoms one might experience during a panic attack: increased heart and respiratory rates, dry mouth and dizziness. Unsurprisingly, people with high anxiety sensitivity were more likely to panic in response to the test. But Smits discovered that people with high anxiety sensitivity who also reported high activity levels were less likely to panic than subjects who exercised infrequently (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011). The findings suggest that physical exercise could help to ward off panic attacks. “Activity may be especially important for people at risk of developing anxiety disorder,” he says.

Smits is now investigating exercise for smoking cessation. The work builds on previous research by Bess Marcus, PhD, a psychology researcher now at the University of California San Diego, who found that vigorous exercise helped women quit smoking when it was combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1999). However, a more recent study by Marcus found that the effect on smoking cessation was more limited when women engaged in only moderate exercise (Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2005).

Therein lies the problem with prescribing exercise for mental health. Researchers don’t yet have a handle on which types of exercise are most effective, how much is necessary, or even whether exercise works best in conjunction with other therapies.

“Mental health professionals might think exercise may be a good complement [to other therapies], and that may be true,” says Blumenthal. “But there’s very limited data that suggests combining exercise with another treatment is better than the treatment or the exercise alone.”

Researchers are starting to address this question, however. Recently, Madhukar Trivedi, MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical College, and colleagues studied exercise as a secondary treatment for patients with major depressive disorder who hadn’t achieved remission through drugs alone. They evaluated two exercise doses: One group of patients burned four kilocalories per kilogram each week, while another burned 16 kilocalories per kilogram weekly. They found both exercise protocols led to significant improvements, though the higher-dose exercise program was more effective for most patients (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2011).

The study also raised some intriguing questions, however. In men and women without family history of mental illness, as well as men with family history of mental illness, the higher-dose exercise treatment proved more effective. But among women with a family history of mental illness, the lower exercise dose actually appeared more beneficial. Family history and gender are moderating factors that need to be further explored, the researchers concluded.

Questions also remain about which type of exercise is most helpful. Most studies have focused on aerobic exercise, though some research suggests weight training might also be effective, Smits says. Then there’s the realm of mind-body exercises like yoga, which have been practiced for centuries but have yet to be thoroughly studied. “There’s potential there, but it’s too early to get excited,” he says.

Buffering the brain

It’s also unclear exactly how moving your muscles can have such a significant effect on mental health. “Biochemically, there are many things that can impact mood. There are so many good, open questions about which mechanisms contribute the most to changes in depression,” says de Groot.

Some researchers suspect exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which supports the growth of neurons). Another theory suggests exercise helps by normalizing sleep, which is known to have protective effects on the brain.

There are psychological explanations, too. Exercise may boost a depressed person’s outlook by helping him return to meaningful activity and providing a sense of accomplishment. Then there’s the fact that a person’s responsiveness to stress is moderated by activity. “Exercise may be a way of biologically toughening up the brain so stress has less of a central impact,” Otto says.

It’s likely that multiple factors are at play. “Exercise has such broad effects that my guess is that there are going to be multiple mechanisms at multiple levels,” Smits says.

So far, little work has been done to unravel those mechanisms. Michael Lehmann, PhD, a research fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health, is taking a stab at the problem by studying mice — animals that, like humans, are vulnerable to social stress.

Lehmann and his colleagues subjected some of their animals to “social defeat” by pairing small, submissive mice with larger, more aggressive mice. The alpha mice regularly tried to intimidate the submissive rodents through the clear partition that separated them. And when the partition was removed for a few minutes each day, the bully mice had to be restrained from harming the submissive mice. After two weeks of regular social defeat, the smaller mice explored less, hid in the shadows, and otherwise exhibited symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One group of mice, however, proved resilient to the stress. For three weeks before the social defeat treatment, all of the mice were subjected to two dramatically different living conditions. Some were confined to spartan cages, while others were treated to enriched environments with running wheels and tubes to explore. Unlike the mice in the bare-bones cages, bullied mice that had been housed in enriched environments showed no signs of rodent depression or anxiety after social defeat (Journal of Neuroscience, 2011). “Exercise and mental enrichment are buffering how the brain is going to respond to future stressors,” Lehmann says.

Lehmann can’t say how much of the effect was due to exercise and how much stemmed from other aspects of the stimulating environment. But the mice ran a lot — close to 10 kilometers a night. And other experiments hint that running may be the most integral part of the enriched environment, he says.

Looking deeper, Lehmann and his colleagues examined the mice’s brains. In the stimulated mice, they found evidence of increased activity in a region called the infralimbic cortex, part of the brain’s emotional processing circuit. Bullied mice that had been housed in spartan conditions had much less activity in that region. The infralimbic cortex appears to be a crucial component of the exercise effect. When Lehmann surgically cut off the region from the rest of the brain, the protective effects of exercise disappeared. Without a functioning infralimbic cortex, the environmentally enriched mice showed brain patterns and behavior similar to those of the mice who had been living in barebones cages.

Humans don’t have an infralimbic cortex, but we do have a homologous region, known as cingulate area 25 or Brodmann area 25. And in fact, this region has been previously implicated in depression. Helen Mayberg, MD, a neurologist at Emory University, and colleagues successfully alleviated depression in several treatment-resistant patients by using deep-brain stimulation to send steady, low-voltage current into their area 25 regions (Neuron, 2005). Lehmann’s studies hint that exercise may ease depression by acting on this same bit of brain.

Getting the payoff

Of all the questions that remain to be answered, perhaps the most perplexing is this: If exercise makes us feel so good, why is it so hard to do it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available), some 25 percent of the U.S. population reported zero leisure-time physical activity.

Starting out too hard in a new exercise program may be one of the reasons people disdain physical activity. When people exercise above their respiratory threshold — that is, above the point when it gets hard to talk — they postpone exercise’s immediate mood boost by about 30 minutes, Otto says. For novices, that delay could turn them off of the treadmill for good. Given that, he recommends that workout neophytes start slowly, with a moderate exercise plan.

Otto also blames an emphasis on the physical effects of exercise for our national apathy to activity. Physicians frequently tell patients to work out to lose weight, lower cholesterol or prevent diabetes. Unfortunately, it takes months before any physical results of your hard work in the gym are apparent. “Attending to the outcomes of fitness is a recipe for failure,” he says.

The exercise mood boost, on the other hand, offers near-instant gratification. Therapists would do well to encourage their patients to tune into their mental state after exercise, Otto says — especially when they’re feeling down.

“Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise,” he says. “Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.”

It may take a longer course of exercise to alleviate mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, Smits adds. But the immediate effects are tangible — and psychologists are in a unique position to help people get moving. “We’re experts in behavior change,” he says. “We can help people become motivated to exercise.”


Kirsten Weir is a writer in Minneapolis.

A Journey with Depression

Depression is real. It is not a crutch people lean on when they are sad. She is a bitch and very real. She’s a seed that slowly finds her way deep within you. She finds pain to feed her need to grow. She pulls that pain in and inside her branches of self hatred rip you apart minute by minute until you are overtaken by pain. This pain runs deep in your soul and steals your inner light because that is what it really needs to thrive.

She is the most evil of mental illnesses. You know you’re in hell – chained to the memories that brought you there. You know you walk a line between this life and the next. Fear overtakes your mind. You see the world in grey and your world fades to a violent black and white movie. Love is impossible to feel or give. She takes from you all that you have worked so hard to find and to have. The embrace of others leaves you feeling nothing but even more alone and hopeless. If the love of your own child can’t bring you back then what can? You become too scared to ask for what you need because what if that last thread back to the light breaks.

She refuses to let you escape and one by one your choices are ripped away.  You slowly shut down and the world becomes a nightmare. You hide behind your fortress and the rest of the world forgets you are there. The pain and the fear battle with your desire to reach out and ask for help.

Yet she can not take away prayer – the one gift that remained in Pandora’s box. Prayer becomes your only hope and so that you do. You pray to a God you’re not sure is listening. You pray to Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, the stars….whoever you think may listen. You beg them to take away the pain. Your knees become bruised just like your soul. You open your eyes and see a glimpse of light. You reach for it. It may be real or false but you reach. You stretch to it and break free of the chains that kept you in hell. One by one angels reach down and pull you back to the light of the world. Yet you know that this time is only temporary. Maybe in days or months or years but deep down you know your feet will walk through the valley again. You will see the dark again.

For now you walk out a stronger person. A once broken  heart and soul now mends to be stronger than before. Your purpose is renewed and in the days of light and glory you work hard to stay there yet always fearing what may come.

This is depression. Sadly though not everyone wants the world to know that they suffer from this. It’s called the silent disease and all of diseases it’s the one that needs to most voice. How ironic? There is a stigma of fear still around mental illness because you can’t see it. We still live in a world that if you can’t see it then it must not be there.  Unlike being diagnosed with cancer people don’t rally around those with depression. They pull away not knowing what to say or do or for overdramatizing something that can be “just treated with a pill”. Trust me I’ve taken ever antidepressant – even the hard stuff. None of it kept me from the place I described above. Their drama is too much for many but they NEED your light and love. They need you to hug them daily and believe in their recovery. They need you to be their angel when they are searching for one. They need you to reach out because when you do you could be pulling someone from the depths of depression and when you realize that you will find a power you never knew you had and they will thank you.

Amanda

Harness

Broken, scared, timid, lost and angry

A little girl down on her knees

With only the ability to cower and hide

Angels were sent to help her see

Pain holds much power but love holds even more

One can harness that power and become free

And I have done that very thing.

I can now stand on the edge and look down at the valley

I emerged a woman standing standing strong in the rain

Looking out over a land so vast with possibility

But laced with uncertainty and pain

A tiny spark of hope now burns bright in faith

That I shall never return to that hell I once felt

And accept the gifts I have been given

And never look back at the lost world I have left.

Harness

When My Bipolar Gets The Best of Me

It’s days like today that I’m reminded that Bipolar is a stronger beast than I give it credit for at times. A morning of sudden anxiety and harsh tones in my every word. Leave dropoff thinking fourth graders are laughing at my car and Julia. Dreading each minute of a spin class I usually love then rushing to my car so no one can see me. Going straight home and blowing off all errands planned because the anxiety. Trying to find my credit card and begin to think my friend stole it.  Catching things move out of the corner of my eye but nothing is there.

Bipolar is a blazing siren of fear. She screams and the anxiety and paranoia overwhelm me. I have to escape and I have to hide.

Then I remind myself that yesterday was a beautiful day. The world was clear and today is just a bunch of clouds. My mind is cloudy today. My outlook is cloudy.. My love for self is almost null today but days like this don’t last long for clouds move across the sky revealing a beautiful ocean behind it. Sometimes they move slow, sometimes fast. I know this but can’t see this today. I have been doing amazing lately and this is just a hiccup which happens. Behind the cloudiness and fog is a strong resilient woman who knows that making it through today regardless of how I make it through it will happen.

I still hold onto hope that by me taking time to understand me and this illness . I will continue to have faith and trust that I’m in the hands of God.

Amanda

A Letter to Mary Jane

Dear Mary Jane,

I wanted to take a minute to say thank you so much for being you. You are a blessing from God and I truly believe this.

You help me cope when I’m feeling overwhelmed. After spending a few minutes together it doesn’t seem so bad. I can sort through the important and not important tasks of my day. I am reminded that my girls are the most important and with your help the anxiety of being a mom will not take me from them. You help me be the mom I want to be.

Last week when I missed my meds and woke up and severe withdrawal you were there. The nausea, headaches and just being me was way too much. I laid in bed crying confused why God would make me suffer this way. With a gentle nudge from my husband to just open up to you for just a few minutes (eventhough it was 8am in the morning) I did and the nausea, body pain and headache faded away. I was able to get out of bed, make breakfast and be the mom my girls needed that Sunday morning.

I really appreciate the other day when I was feeling so depressed and I didn’t want to even be around my family. To smile seemed impossible.To even leave my room and begin a conversation with my own family was intimidating. One of the hardest parts of Bipolar is the paranoia that even your kids don’t love you. To find the power to talk to my family was far away – my reality was not reality at all. Mary Jane, you reminded me of what reality is and that many times my reality is false.  You came in and with just a few breaths you awoke the love within me again. I don’t know how you do it. You help me be the mom I want to be.

You lift the anxiety of being a mom. I can always talk to you for a couple minutes and you remind me that what counts is inside me and all the rest can just fade away. So what my kids don’t look perfect when they walk out the door? So what if we are a little late? So what if no one likes me? So what? Thank you for reminding me that I am becoming the mom I need to be.

I can’t even tell you how much you have helped over the past year. With all of the health issues that bombarded me in the beginning of 2015 – anxiety and panic attacks, arthritis, overweight, hormone imbalance, lack of energy, clinical depression, thyroid issues – I didn’t have much hope. My doctors told me to stay away from you and they were pushing and pulling me in all directions.  However once we met you helped me cut that list down and now I only have to take four pills – from 15! . You were with me when I needed a bit of a crutch to lean on as I detoxed off anti-depressants that I was mis-prescribed for three years.  I trusted the medical system and it failed me. You did not. I felt so bad at times I didn’t want to be a mom. You have helped me bike, hike, run and play and showed me I could be the mom my kids want me to be.

I will work hard this next year to make people understand how important you are to me, my family and my work. People just don’t understand you at all and it’s unfair to those of us who need to know others like you.

Ever so thankful,

Zoe M.