Helping our children through the struggles of depression has been the hardest task that we as parents have ever encountered. Not only have we broached the most difficult of times, we have faced thee unthinkable. I never knew the true meaning of the word “helpless” until this journey began.
Some things that we have been using to help counteract this illness have been counseling, with cognitive therapy, and yes, even medicine. (Medicine was not our first choice, but was necessary in the end, to battle the chemical imbalances.) We have also been using exercise, healthy eating, vitamins, probiotics and even yoga. Studies prove the body and digestive system are closely tied to the brain and chemicals there.
It is also very important to have a “game plan” when the down times occur. Even I have talked about what I do here. It is really no different for my kids. We must have things in place that they can do to bring enjoyment into their days, if only for a moment. My oldest likes building electromagnets, weight lifting, crocheting and video games. My youngest prefers crafting, art and drawing, along with the outdoors and biking. This does not mean the struggles don’t still reek havoc, but these counter measures can and do help. Teaching coping skills is vital to surviving this disease!
The biggest commodity to me in this illness, however, has been my own personal experiences. I have said before, empathy is so much different from sympathy. Being able to connect with my two teens by understanding and relating, is priceless. We communicate frequently and they are usually quite open with me. Does it make things easier? Not always! But, it does help them to know they are not alone is this battle. And being able to knowledgeably advocate for them is a blessing.
May is Mental Illness Month. If you or someone you know battles mental illness, there are many great resources here. Also read my piece Speaking The Language which talks more about this journey with my family.
Mental Illness May #1
Life With Anxiety
After The Storm
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m even speaking the same language as the rest of the world. Have you ever felt this? When you are saying something and people look at you with blank eyes, like you are speaking your own made up words. I feel like I am often in this fog that is pulling me deeper into its clutches. At times amazes me that anything I do or say forms any sort of cohesion, let alone that I accomplish daily tasks.
Mental illness has wreaked havoc on our family this year. Although I am unable to share details at this time, I can tell you that it has been a very hard five months! With myself, as well as two teenagers (add puberty and hormones) whom all have one form or another of mental illness, and voila you have mayhem. And hubby, well, he is just trying to stear this crazy train!
So, what do we do to get through this time in our lives? The best we can, I suppose. There is counseling and medicine, but also lots of listening and supporting. Learning coping skills and how to take care of mind, but also body. (Keep an eye out for a piece in the future on how we take care of our mind and body.) Some days we just chill (thank God for homeschool and flexibility) and other days we can only do our best to push through. Sometimes the sounding board for the kids and other times the warm embrace. There are nights when the four of us all sit on our queen size bed and just talk about how tough things are right now, other times no talking occurs and perhaps a tear or two is shed.
I never had to cope with my depression as a teenager. I didn’t begin my struggle until I was twenty. I cannot even imagine the difficulty of navigating an already stressful and confusing time of life, then adding depression and anxiety into the mix! But, I see the strength and determination that has taken root in my children’s lives. I believe in them and their abilities. And, at times I find myself thanking God for giving me depression, just so that I can be empathetic and understanding of my kids and the struggles they face. Ultimately, I know that we have got this!
May is Mental Illnes Month. If you or someone you know battles mental illness, there are many great resources here.
Life With Anxiety
After The Storm
Your prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “language.” #SoCS
Am I lost to all sanity? I turn around and nothing is familiar anymore
I search in this sky of wonder and mystery yet still there’s nothing there
Where have all the pretty things gone? I feel lost, forgotten and in ruin
It’s all a maze of the obscure, curious and foreign, where the mind breaks
Puzzle pieces with no color, edges gone, nothing fits together anymore©
May is Mental Illnes Month. If you or someone you know battles mental illness, there are many great resources here. And this is a piece on my perspective, Mental Illness May #1
I cannot face this thing
The darkness is too much
And the pain is too great
This heart was not meant
To feel an ache like this
My throat closes up tight
How can I still breathe?
You have stollen my air
Ripped out my very soul
I am completely exposed
The elements sting my skin
Beaten down to the ground
There are no more tears left
A cliff is ahead but I am blind
Just set me free from all of me
May is Mental Illness Awareness month.
Mental Illness May #1
May is mental health awareness month and this is of course a topic that is of interest and close to my heart. Not only do I have my own difficulties in depression, anxiety and a bit of PTSD; but, I also have two teenagers, which both struggle with depression, and one also with high amounts of social anxiety. The list goes on however on my dad’s side of the family. The genetics of this illness seem to play a large roll. Suicidal tendencies have plagued some, while others have seemed to manage the illnesses well.
And, for the loved ones that must stand and watch us combat this disease, often [it] can be a lonely road. One of trials, loss of the person they once knew, dramatic highs followed by devastating lows and so forth. It is a disease that affects everyone in the life of the individual who is ill.
Then there is the stigma that still seems to go with mental illness. It is something that is not widely understood and in some circles it is even thought to be caused by lifestyle choices. Others think that it is an easy fix, “Just pull yourself together!” While some that suffer, do so in silence because they are made to feel ashamed and that they have to hide this disease. Nothing is more isolating then a mental illness.
Even in the treatment of the disease there are places that are still not equipped to handle the mentally ill. Those that have attempted or wish to, commit suicide, are often punished for being ill by being cut off from loved ones and held captive by a guard in a small empty space. And then, perhaps, even finding out the facility does not house an on-sight psychiatric doctor (yes, I am aware of such a situation).
I’ll be talking again this month about how I have gotten better over time with coping skills and other techniques, as well as some of the personal struggles in raising children with mental illness. For some of my other pieces see below. And if you or someone you know battles mental illness, there are many great resources here.
Life With Anxiety
After The Storm
Your prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “inter-” Use the prefix “inter-” any way you’d like.
“It is only when we feel deprived that we resent giving to others. Self-care does not mean you stop caring about others; it just means you start caring more about you. Start thinking about yourself more and others less. Since you have a choice between taking care of someone else, or giving to yourself, try choosing yourself sometimes.” ~Beverly Engel, The Right to Innocence
The world is giving us lots of imput, and constantly things are coming at us, all while we are being faced with choices. There are times I feel my mind slipping, getting caught up in these things that are really unimportant and of no consequence. Control of my depression and anxiety will start to fail. Then I begin to feel that I am no good to anyone and a fog settles into my mind. I’m in the fast lane but I’m about to cause an accident because my vehicle’s ‘check engine’ light is on.
More and more I realize how important it is for me to take time to pause. I need to renew self so that I can get through life as a mom, wife and person. I have to make this time a necessity and not just a luxury. Call it a mental health day or call it ‘me’ time, but it is what keeps me sane.
What types of activities do I do with this time? Well, everyone’s idea of what is enjoyable differs. But, some activities, no mater the person, can be quite theraputic. I have found art, journaling, meditation and yoga are useful for everyone. There is much scientific research that backs this up. I can attest that these are all amazing ways to bring my mind back into focus, clarity and at peace.
As for other options I choose to do with my free time– I enjoy hanging out at Starbucks or walking around my favorite store, going to the library, strolling on the beach and doing photography. These pastimes are inexpensive or free, but do so much to help me feel refreshed and get my motor running properly. So, I hope that you will be sure to take moments to relax and renew yourself too, remembering to slow down once in a while before you crash and burn.
I’d like to touch on the topic of anxiety. This is a mental health ‘issue’ that touches my family immensely. Between myself and one of my children, we have the market cornered on life with anxiety. It is a genetically inherit trait, along with depression, both running on my side of the family. Unfortunately, my two teenage children and I have depression as well.
My youngest also suffers with social anxiety. Influencing all facets of life, from the struggle to be at extended family events, making friends, ordering a meal or engaging with a cashier. As a teenager these are things most would consider fairly mundane parts of life and take for granite even, but this is not the case here. The anxieties at times can affect life for the whole family. Unannounced anxiety enduced nausea or panic attacks; these can interrupt family outings or keep us from even making it out the door. And, although my two teens are best friends and can engage each other with ease, I do worry what life as an adult for my child will look like. Cognitive therapy (CBT) is a useful tool that we do have, but anxiety will still always play a part in life.
My anxieties are a bit less apparent as I do not have trouble with interactions or engaging in public. My anxiety tends to be in the form of stressful situations. I can have panic attacks when my mind takes over a situation. Whether I begin to feel claustrophobic or I feel like I may be in a confrontational situation. These can send me, but not always, which is the disconcerting part. I find having a strong mind and being in control, keep me centered and away from the panic attacks. Relaxation, meditation and time to myself are great therapies for me, along with good support from my family.
Life with anxiety does not have to be all-consuming, but it can be. However, overall I believe our family has learned to cope with it and just go with the flow most of the time. Afterall this is really all we can do, as well as, being super supportive and understanding of one another. Strength as a family unit is certainly a key part of successful daily living with mental health struggles.© ~Mac