Tag Archives: mental illness

In Weakness

I had a short conversation with a friend the other day about giving God credit for stuff, and using that as an explanation for His existence. I’ve heard that argument a lot, where a person is able to forgive someone after years of resentment, and says it wouldn’t be possible without God. They overcome some challenge and point to heaven.

My friend is skeptical, saying that it could just be that someone matures and grows, and that they could just as easily give themselves credit for that change. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, because a huge reason why I believe in God is because when something seems impossible, it still happens. I really can’t give myself credit for certain things that I’ve come through. For me, “progress” and “maturity” are not linear. One week I’m doing really well and being productive, and the next, I’m afraid to go to the grocery store again. Old habits die hard, and the brain has a real hold on certain habits. There’s only so much it can change, and in certain situations, it reverts backwards. It’s like emotional time travel. 

Basically, in my experience, growth doesn’t really build up, at least in the darkest moments. When it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m waking up from a nap, a stress dream brought on by an onslaught of recent deaths still burning in my mind, I might as well be 16 again. There isn’t anything in my body to help me, it’s low in protein, low in vitamin D, and there aren’t any reserves.

That place has always been where I feel God the strongest. My own brain and body aren’t a distraction because they’re so drained and shriveled up, like raisins. And this isn’t a dig on my abilities or self-esteem; if will power was enough, I would be a lawyer/best-selling author. I have will power in spades, but when your body is chemically-designed to fight you every step of the way, it just isn’t enough. I wouldn’t trade in that weakness, though, that fragility. Like I said, it’s where I see God the most. When the darkness gets dark enough, it becomes light.

So, that’s how I know God exists. It’s more convincing to me than any amount of apologetics or intelligent design arguments or whatever else someone can dredge up. Proof is carved in my bones and melted into my blood. It’s tied into the messy neurons of my brain. His strength – not mine – what keeps my lungs inhaling and exhaling when even the most primal animal instinct of survival is fading. 

—-

Psalm 139: 12
Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

stress thoughts, folk music, and sweat

Screenshot 2016-08-19 at 3.39.14 PM

I’ve been getting a lot of stress thoughts at night. These are the unpredictable, persistent thoughts that pepper my brain when I can’t fall asleep quickly enough, which is every night. Yoshi is coming home soon, so that’s been preoccupying me. I’ll start thinking things like, “What if he hates it here and the neighbors complain?” and then, “What if he dies? What if he gets so excited that he has a heart attack?” Then I’ll worry about Baxter, and go lie in his room so I can hear him rustling around, which proves he’s alive. My pills have been acting up and being weird, so if I don’t take the last one with enough food, it makes me sick. That’s a new development, and it’s not fun. They just can’t cooperate, can they?

Penny & Sparrow is my favorite band right now. Chris thinks they’re too “chill,” and that they make him want to fall asleep. He says that like it’s a bad thing. My music tastes have changed so much. I tried listening to Skillet recently, one of my favorites from high school, and I was not impressed. Too loud. I’m old.

It’s been in the 90’s weather-wise. I don’t I’ve ever sweat so much in my life. When I work out, I point the fan directly at myself, and it makes a big difference. Otherwise, I think I would literally die. It would not be safe.

I wish I could work on my novel more. I have a notebook where I scribble a few lines or pages as often as I can, and I need to type that up. One of my characters changed a lot from my first draft. She went from being really sweet and sensitive to kind of a tough cookie. It was not at all on purpose. I guess that’s just what she’s meant to be.

 

when fear asks the wrong question

The greatest disagreement Chris and I have had in our relationship is children. He’s always wanted kids, and when we got married, he knew I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I was very young, and we both assumed I would gradually come around to the idea. I haven’t. In fact, I’ve become more resistant to it.

We’ve had a lot of tough conversations. There have been lots of tears. It seemed like the question we both had to face was, “Do I have to choose between the person I love or the life I always imagined having?” For Chris, that life meant children. For me, it meant not having children. We reached an impasse.

I knew something was wrong with the question we were asking. I’ve always been very analytical and self-aware, and any question that seemed designed for heartbreak made me suspicious. I fully believe that there is no fear in love, and to be so fearful meant there was something going on.

I’ve had to ask myself a million times, why don’t I want children? It always comes back to my mental illness. The idea of pregnancy terrifies me. The medication I’m on has such a bad rap that there’s a thing called “Effexor babies,” where women have sued after being on high doses while pregnant, and having children with birth defects or who died. Of course, the healthcare system insists the risk isn’t too bad, but they have a horse in the race. Reading stories from actual women has convinced me that any kind of strong antidepressant is going to mess with the natural development of a child. However, the other option, going off medication, is just as scary and risky. Severe depression can affect a fetus’ growth just as much as a drug.

My fears don’t stop there, though. No matter what route I go, that’s just 9-10 months. It’s doable. But, then the baby is born, and it’s here for the rest of my life. It’s overwhelming. I’m at a point where I can just care for my own mental state, how on earth can I be expected to take care of a kid? Another human being, who is essentially a sponge? And then there’s the increased risk of the child also developing a mental illness, so that’s another layer of responsibility.

In going over my reasons, I noticed that Chris was entirely absent from my thought process. And then I realized that the reason I’m so overwhelmed is because I imagine dealing with all the complexities of parenting + mental illness by myself. I don’t have confidence that Chris would know how to deal. I’ve never imagined my life with kids because I’ve never known my life free from the ever-looming presence of mental illness, and I’ve never known what having a real partner in the fight is like. That doesn’t mean that Chris doesn’t support me or is unhelpful. It’s just that depression/anxiety has always been my “thing” that he comes in and out of, it isn’t something he lives with like I live with it. If we’re going to be a real team, we both have to live with it. If we were truly united, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed about the idea of kids.

The real question isn’t choosing between us or a kid. It is, “How do we get on the same team when it comes to mental illness?” That’s something a counselor can help us with, and has lots of solutions both practically and spiritually. It’s a question we can tackle without feeling like we’re just butting heads. Fear always likes to ask the question that only has one, usually horrible answer, but that’s not how love works.

Here’s Where I Admit I Don’t Know What The Hell I’m Talking About

I wrote a book about how to deal with mental illness. It says things like, “Don’t isolate yourself,” “Find a community,” and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, I’m coming off of probably the worst few weeks in a long time, where I had to force myself to brush my teeth, showered maybe every four days, and sometimes slept all day. I also feel like a fraud. I wait to blog until I have something positive to say at the end of the post. Well, I don’t this time. Even writing this is hard work, but it’s important, because it’s important for you all to see the really bad parts, too.

These are the times when it’s nearly impossible to be coherent, when people ask how you are, and you open your mouth, and no words come out. It’s partly because I don’t want to be a downer, and partly because I don’t know how to explain what walking death really feels like. Usually, the best I can do is, “Merrg.”

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be around people. I really want to be around people, because it forces me to pretend to be a human instead of a husk. I’m performing, and if I do it long enough, maybe it’ll rub off. On the other hand, I’m left feeling empty when they leave, because I want to talk to somebody about the mess I really am, and I’m disappointed and angry and guilty. As hours pass, I start looking out the window, waiting for Chris, like a dog. When he comes and asks how I am, I want to just shake that part off, and move on. Can I press fast-forward on this part? Or will I just be skipping ahead forever?

A Hedgehog Adapts Better To Change Than Me

When I got Baxter, I was told that hedgehogs don’t do very well with change. It can upset their stomachs and make them especially withdrawn. We moved this weekend to a new apartment in the cities, about twenty minutes from our old place, so I was very careful to watch out for the Bax. The morning of, I put him in his travel container with water, food, and his snuggle sack, and kept him away from the action. When it was time to go, he rode up in the car with me, and went into the new bedroom as soon as we arrived. The first night, I didn’t have time to build his house back up, so he got some temporary digs in his large Tupperware complete with tubes, a hideaway box, water, and food. The next day, he slept in his snuggle sack while I built his house.

He is adjusting better than me. Unlike a lot of hedgehogs, he unballed right away when he met some new people, and was immediately drinking and eating in his new house. I watched him last night and he was very busy moving his tubes from one place to another. This morning, I found him sleeping out in the open instead of under his box canopy (which is where I usually find him, because he likes to hide) with a tube on his head.

Me, on the other hand…I just don’t do well with change. It has nothing to do with how well things are going. I love the new apartment, unpacking and organizing has been relatively pain-free, and I don’t even have a job to go to. I stay home for my job. Despite all this, I have been stressed. Whenever my mind is relatively anxiety-free, my body takes it upon itself to unleash all those nerves. I got sick last night (once again winning the race between Chris and I of who will get sick first in a new place), feel constantly dehydrated even though I’m drinking water all the time, and can’t figure out how to eat. I ate four muffins today. GAH. I guess I need to get better at acknowledging my anxiety, instead of pushing it down so it manifests in a purely physical way. I’ve had to balance a lot of things in life, but I can’t say I anticipated having to figure out how to balance physical and mental anxiety.

To The Brokenhearted: Being a Christian with Depression

My first Kindle ebook is now available for purchase on Amazon. It costs $4.99 and is enabled for lending on the Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get it on your computer or smartphone using the Amazon Kindle app. Here are some instructions:

http://jeanienefrost.com/discount-ebooks/how-to-read-an-ebook-without-an-e-reader/

I hope some of you check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/Brokenhearted-Being-Christian-Depression-ebook/dp/B013HPUO00/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440533993&sr=8-1&keywords=to+the+broken+hearted+being+a+christian&pebp=1440533995385&perid=1CJ7SKS136KKVP032WFT

What I’m Reading: “Blessed Are The Crazy” by Sarah Griffith Lund

I knew I was going to love “Blessed Are the Crazy” when a random sponsored ad took me to Sarah Griffith Lund’s author page on Facebook. It had all the elements of books I am drawn to, and most vitally, it tells a story that it takes guts to talk about. Ms. Lund’s story begins when she was a child and her mentally-ill father wrecked havoc on his family, even when he and Sarah’s mother separated and he drifted in and out of her life. She goes through the years of confusion and fear about why her father was the way he was, realization of his illness, and gradually, slowly, learning from him. She also writes about her brother who seemed to “inherit” his father’s illness, which eventually cost him his wife, career, and emotional stability. One of the most profound parts of the book is when Ms. Lund acknowledges how brave her brother is by choosing to stay alive when all he wanted to do was die. This is something so many people fail to realize when it comes to severe mental illness, when just breathing is an act of heroism, the ultimate self-sacrifice. Also included in this little, extremely powerful book is the story of Ms. Lund’s cousin who was executed at age 30 and the evolution of her own spirituality.

As a person of faith, Ms. Lund works through so many thoughts and questions I have had other the years about God and mental illness. One thing I really loved was her thoughts on how everyone has a cross to bear, and for so many, that cross is mental illness. It makes songs like “Oh, the Wonderful Cross” fall flat and those little pretty silver cross necklaces trite. Ms. Lund writes, “…You can buy porcelain or jeweled crosses with Bible quotes….but what about a cross that looks crazy, that looks ugly? Not as reflective of a crazy or ugly God, but one that represents the craziness and ugliness of our burdens that we bear?” It made me think about what the original cross represented and looked like. It was where criminals hung to die. Jesus’ cross was painted red with his gore, his skin nailed against the wood with spikes. When he was forced to carry up the hill, he fell, and a man named Simon of Cyrene had to help him. Jesus needed someone to carry his cross with him. Imagine how much more do we need others to help us.

My family has been there to carry my cross of mental illness, and it has not left them without scars. Reading what I write about mental illness and my history with it is often extremely difficult for them. I wouldn’t be alive without them.

When Stress Evolves

So, life has been kind of stressful lately. We’ve been trying to find a new place to live after learning that our apartment was kicking everyone out at the end of the lease (September 30th), and because people are the worst, we haven’t been able to walk-through anywhere, and it’s difficult to find somewhere in our price range that’s also not located in a dangerous neighborhood. Also, my freelance jobs have been slowing down, just in time for new loan expenses, so I’ve been applying for a bunch of new gigs and waiting to hear back.

When I get stressed, I get extremely tired. This isn’t new. In the past, I’ve also not been able to eat anything without getting sick, I’ve gotten back pain, social anxiety has kicked back in, and so on. What is frustrating is that while I’ve been able to train myself out of these patterns, stress always finds a way to evolve and throw something new at me. This time around, it’s skin irritation. Lovely, I know.

Our apartment is always really hot. When it’s 74 degrees, it feels frosty. It always gets worse in the evening for some reason, so we’re pushing back against 82-83 degrees. If I do anything physical, like pilates or yoga, I start sweating like I’m crossing the Sahara. I have this thing where if I sweat a lot, it irritates my skin to an insane degree. It’s like I’m allergic to my own sweat (it’s a real thing, look it up) and I break out in a rash. Last night, I didn’t even do anything, I think I was walking around looking for something, and my scalp started to burn. It seriously felt like my head was on fire. I finally had to get cold water and Q-tips, and pat my scalp. It helped a little, and I took a shower later. That night though, I started stressing out. The burning came back. It actually woke me up.

It is extraordinary what stress can do to the body. It’s like poison, but the symptoms keeping changing, so just when you think you found a cure…BAM. Something new happens.

I wrote a book!

So, I wrote a little book called “To the Brokenhearted: Being a Christian with Depression,” and it will be coming to Kindle very soon. I’m using their direct publishing service, and I’m super excited for everyone to check it out. It’s about my experiences with depression and anxiety, specifically as a Christian, and the lessons I’ve learned on how to deal with symptoms, people who deny mental illness, and so on. I have an author page on Facebook set up: https://www.facebook.com/eshubertyauthor

“Like” me and stay tuned!