A Starbucks Employee

May 12, 2016

 “I am doing horribly. My mood has dipped from anxiety into depression. Brian has become short with me and I can not take it. I don’t want to do this to my family again. I don’t want to go through inpatient again.  The thought literally takes my breath from my lungs. The pain and darkness sneaks up so quickly. I really thought I was going to be healed. Now I feel hopeless. I don’t want to go through this again. I am upset because I was doing well, then we changed my meds. Now, I am worse. I am angry. Why wont God heal me now?”

May 18, 2016 

“I am just sitting here and writing in the Ingles parking lot. I got myself Starbucks. It is so crazy that the Starbucks employee named Hunter is gone. I first noticed him on my first night of Grief Share, when I stopped going to Grief Share, he was no longer an employee. 

I have switched to a new medicine called Latuda. I feel a lot better and more like myself. I started it on Saturday night. My taste has returned. I can taste sweet things again. My body feels more calm again. I don’t feel as anxious. My weight gain is under control again. 

I am able to pray and begin growing in my relationship with God again. I am so glad. I am in a place where I feel God molding me into a better version of myself. I feel more peaceful, emotionally invested, and desiring to focus on others. It is a good place.”

What a difference a week and some new medication can make. It demonstrates the effect of being on the wrong medications. Trust yourself, when your medications aren’t making you feel the way you know you should. There are different drugs and better ones. No one can predict what medication will work for what person and how. Only time and trial and error will help. Make sure you are with a psychiatrist who understands this and is willing to work with you.  Latuda was such a great medication for me. I knew I needed a mood stabilizing medicine after such an improvement when starting Risperdal. Saphris was an absolute disaster. Latuda became my drug of choice. I would remain on it for the duration of my treatment.

Grief Share was such a great experience. The first night was so scary for me. I drove to the church and turned around. I decided I wasn’t ready and went to Starbucks for a coffee. My barista’s name was Hunter. He even looked like a high school version of my brother. I don’t believe in coincidence. So, I took it as a sign that Hunter was with me and drove back to Grief Share. Grief Share is a program that can be found in many churches across the country. The curriculum was written by a couple that lost three of their children.  The now run retreats across the country to help parents that have lost a child. I didn’t fit in well at Grief Share. It was mostly widows with a few parents who lost older children. However, my story gripped these people. A few precious widows drew around me and gave me such great support. It was such a blessing. However, as my mental illness developed I found  that I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to withdraw from social situations. So, I stopped going. The last night I went, Hunter was no longer an employee of Starbucks. He had worked every shift during my time at Grief Share. It felt like my journey with Grief Share was over, at least for a season. So, I said goodbye and moved along on my journey. 

The Canaanite Woman

May 8, 2016

“Today was Mother’s Day! My gift was some friends of ours coming over and giving our back deck a makeover. They put pads on our chairs and bench, added flowers and planters, and an outdoor rug. It is gorgeous! This morning we went to church and dedicated Judah. It was wonderful. Church was on the Cannanite woman. She begged Jesus to just give her the tinniest amount of attention, though she did not deserve it. I have been her. I have begged God for help and desired just the scraps of his healing love. I felt the pull on my heart, as I approached the altar to weep and pray. I felt God say, “That is why the journey had to be so long and so painful. I needed the pain and severity to be so great that event the greatest doubter wouldn’t be able to explain the restoration of your life. It is complete and now begins the healing.” I believe. I believe that now restoration will come.”

It was such a blessing to have friends draw around me and give me something I couldn’t give myself. Having this gift of a nice outdoor space to go and get away was wonderful. So many people, during this season, just abandon us. They didn’t call and check in. They weren’t in the messy days. They simply went back to their own lives, when our lives became messy. It really broke my heart and made me angry with The Church as a whole. Christians were supposed to emulate Christ and get down in the trenches with the broken and hurting. However, we so often want to stay in the comfortable. We don’t want to be inconvenienced by other people’s struggles. We want to stay in our ivory towers where things look easier and prettier. Those, however, weren’t the people that brought healing to my life. They weren’t the people who showed me the love of Christ. The people who saw my pain and responded with authentic love. Those were the hands and feet of Christ that reached into the dark places of my heart and shined light. They were the ones that gave me hope that I wasn’t broken beyond repair. They were the ones who helped bring me out of the pit. To them, I am grateful.

Mother’s Day was, also, a hard day. I felt like such a failure. I was sick and making life harder for my own mother and my children. I felt unbelievable guilt. But I tried to push it aside, to go to church and truly hear the message that day. I could relate to the Canaanite woman. She believed in Jesus’s power. She didn’t come front and center demanding it. She was humble, begging for even the crumbs. She knew that anything Jesus could give would heal her demon possessed daughter. I have been there. In the hopeless state of illness, believing there would never be healing. However, the crumbs gave me hope. I knew it wouldn’t take a lot to heal me, even Jesus crumbs would be enough. I would sit and wait for the crumbs of his light and love to fall down upon me. He gave them to me that day. Hope. I would forget about this day, overtime. As he didn’t tell me he had healed me that day. That day was later. Much later. There would be more struggle to come before being released from my pain. It would be almost two years to the day before the healing came. But that day, I was given hope that this might now last forever. I held onto my crumbs, grateful for every one.

May the Fourth Be With You

May 3, 2016

“The morning has been really hard. We changed my medicine last night. I doubled my Saphris (which I had changed to eliminate my symptoms on Risperdal). I dropped my morning Lithium. I was doing well and then started becoming agitated. I, then, became tired and went back to sleep. I am feeling a bit better now. I am journaling, did yoga, and prayed. I am feeling a bit foggy. 

Hunter’s birthday is tomorrow. I am a little nervous about how the day will be. I miss him so much. I want to hug him tomorrow. I hate the firsts we have to go through without him. It reminds me that I will keep aging and he will not. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to get older without a sibling. It takes my breath away to think about it. I want a moment for us on his birthday. To feel our bond and know he is okay. 

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Reminds me of how limited my perception is to God. He doesn’t see my circumstances as I do. He sees the whole picture. I may feel I am in such pain and darkness but he sees through it all.

Psalm 135:3-4 – “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.”

The Lord chose Jacob. He knew Essau would trade his birthright for food. He knew Jacob would capitalize on his brother’s weakness. He knows what will happen to me. The Lord vindicates us and has compassion on us.

May 5, 2016

“Today has been a good day. Yesterday was harder. It was Hunter’s Birthday. We went to yoga class. I bit off too much with the class I chose. Brian and I kept looking at each others with each new pose. We all wore Star Wars shirts, released white balloons with letters tied to them, and ate dirt dessert. To cap it off we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Changing medications to try and reduce side effects was exhausting. Each one would change how I felt, possibly bringing on new or worse side effects. It was a constant rollercoaster. Each change gave me hope we were about to find the right combination. However, I had no understanding of how long this would take. 

Hunter’s Birthday was May 4. It was so hard to face that day. I couldn’t handle the fact that I was aging and he had stopped. I kept seeing visions of myself looking in the mirror as an old woman and his picture sitting there with his twenty five year old image. Never getting a single day older, never getting wrinkles, never having more children or growing a family. I mourned aging, not for myself but knowing he couldn’t.

I wanted to do things, that day,  that reminded me of him, but had to be careful not to overwhelm myself with grief. Yoga was super helpful, but I decided to increase our intensity level. That is a pitfall of my personality, when something is enjoyable, I have to crank it up a level. Sometimes this gets me in trouble. 

We went to Disney Store to get everyone Star Wars shirts. It was so fitting, as Hunter loved Star Wars. He was born on May the Fourth, so what can you expect. Reaching back for good memories from happier times was a positive experience. It was great to write him a letter and explain how I was feeling. The kids and I tied the letters to the balloons and took them outside to release them. When we let them go, a huge gust of wind came. The balloons we lifted up along the roofline and went down the backside of the house. When we got to the back of the house to see them float away, they were gone. We never found a single one of the balloons. It was as if they really did go directly to him. The Lord was faithful to provide me comfort during these days and to remind me that he saw me right where I was, in the midst of my suffering. I was not there by accident. He had placed in that exact moment at that exact time. 

When For Better Becomes For Worse

April 30, 2016

“ I am back at home and times are hard. Brian treats me a lot like a child. He questions most things I do. He is always filtering what I say because I could be manic. I had a date planned and had a babysitter. Brian wanted me to cancel, so I did. He wants me in bed early. That fanned the anxiety flame and put me in the process of shutting down. I worry people will treat me like this broken person forever. It is devastating. Sometimes I just want to give up and be the person everyone thinks I am. It is hard to be making progress and to have people treating me this way.”

Dealing with mental illness is hard enough on its own, but dealing with a marriage in the midst of mental illness is extremely trying.  My husband and I were in a really good place before my brother passed away. We were tired but excited to welcome our fourth child. My health, however, immediately began to fail after Hunter died.  It was scared for Brian. He would tell me that I had lost my brother but he had lost his wife. When my mental illness started, I went to a very dark place very quickly. I became incompetent. I couldn’t take care of my children or myself. I needed someone with me at all times, to keep me from hurting myself. I essentially became a fifth child for my husband. He was alone. 

When I first became sick, he didn’t want to see it. It was too painful. He didn’t want to believe I needed help. I persisted, however, in asking for treatment. I knew something was wrong. Once I went into the hospital, I felt like I lost all dignity. I was no longer a wife but felt viewed as a child. The respect we once had was lost. My decisions and things I said were no longer trusted. When I returned home,  he didn’t trust me to watch the kids or be alone. He required that I complete all of my self-care activities or he feared I would fall apart. He kept inventory of what I did and how I did it. Always watching for signs of another spiral. I had to have eight hours of sleep, three meals a day, read my Bible, exercise, color my mandalas, and use my Emwave. 

I no longer felt like a wife, it was so painful. The pinnacle of this was when I scheduled a date night for us and he made me cancel so I could be in bed on time. I felt like a shadow of my former self. It was so trying. It actually made my sickness worse, in some ways. I further diminished my hope and gave me a reason to live. It made me fearful life would never be the same. I longed to be the Nurse Practitioner, wife, mother, and sister I had been. From where I sat, then, it looked like it may never happen again. I said  goodbye to a future self and became completely engrossed in my current circumstances. Only time would begin to heal these broken places.

What I Wish People Knew About Suicide

Suicide is something that scares people. You friend, mother, brother, colleague slips into depression. The next thing you know, they are suicidal. It seems so intimidating, unknown. You feel you don’t have the words to say or you are worried you will say or do the wrong thing. I want to share some insight from my time struggling with suicidal thoughts to help give you some information that may help someone you know.

Don’t abandon your loved one – The worst thing you can do to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts is to abandon them, withdraw. People don’t usually commit suicide when other people are present. Your abandon just makes their shame and pain greater. It reinforces that no one cares and people wouldn’t miss them if they were gone. Go sit with them, watch a movie, just let them talk. 

Don’t try to tell them why they shouldn’t commit suicide – When someone is in that dark and deep a place, telling them not to will go in one ear and out the other. Stay away from things like, “how could you think about doing this to your family, don’t you care about us, suicide is selfish.” These common comments do not register because this person’s brain is no longer thinking rationally. Let them know that you don’t know what they are going through but you see their pain and you are here for them no matter what.

If you suspect someone is suicidal, talk to them directly before you go behind their back – Not everyone who is self harming is suicidal. These are two totally different situations. Some people cut themselves to release pain or to allow themselves to feel something, as the numbness sets in. You can simply ask the person if they are suicidal. If they say no, you can ask them to explain how they are feeling. If they say yes, you can ask if they have a plan. Having a plan makes it much more likely the person will carry out their suicide. At that point, you need to encourage that person to seek a professional counselor and a psychiatrist. A general practitioner is not specialized enough to handle the significant nuances of severe mental illness.

You asking a person whether or not they are suicidal is not going to make someone carry out their plan – If anything, it will give the person an outlet to share their pain and no that someone cares. You need to be ready for whatever they and react without judgement. It can feel painful to hear a loved one wants to leave this life and you behind. However, with the significance of the illness in this moment, you can not make the situation about yourself and your feelings. This individual needs all the love and support you have to give.

Don’t try to fix the problem – Unless you are a trained professional with experience with mental illness and suicide, do not offer solutions. This is an area where people over step and can lead to hurting the person instead of helping. Seek professional counsel and advice. While a pastor may be a good support person, they do not have the medical treatment knowledge to give sound medical advice. 

Don’t tell the person to have more faith or pray harder, this is a measurable observable illness – Just as you wouldn’t tell a diabetic not to take their insulin or a person with vision impairment to take off their glasses while driving, mental illness of this severity needs chemical intervention. The brain neurotransmitter imbalances that lead to suicidal thoughts are measurable and observable on scans of the time. Their brain is not making enough of the chemicals needed to feel hope and joy. They are likely lacking in serotonin and dopamine. They may even need medication for mood stabilizing, if rapid changes in mood are triggering suicidal thoughts. Encourage medical intervention while continuing faith practices the person has always followed. They should not be abandoned but should also not be used to replace proper medical care. This illness is the same as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other illnesses that we take medications for. Just because you can’t see the problem, doesn’t mean it is “all in their head.”

This person is not feeling pain and sadness like you are, you are not stronger than they are – Anyone is capable of feelings of suicide with the right combination of life events and chemical imbalances in the brain. When are trauma or significant life event occurs, the brain reroutes its pathways for preservation. Suicide is an extreme version of fight or flight. In this case, the brain is experiencing so much pain and anxiety it can not process it. Therefore, the brain tells the person to run but to an extreme. Death may feel like the only way to escape the unbearable hurt and their brain is reinforcing this belief. Your loved ones body is literally propelling them towards this option and it may consume their thoughts. 

You do not understand unless you have been there – Even the best psychiatrist has only read about the experience of suicidality and has only observed patients. Unless you are a survivor of a suicide attempt or a thought disorder that led to suicidal ideation, do not share what you think you know. It may lead to more harm than good. Sharing about another persons experience you read about does not help. Telling the person a story about someone that “had it worse” only leads to feelings of greater pain and frustration. It makes the individual feel like you are invalidating their experience.

If encourage you to share this today. You never know who may be experiencing pain and suicidal thoughts. You never know who may have a loved one who is struggling. This person is not selfish. They are sick, as you can be sick. Their illness is real and needs treatment. Do not abandon people suffering with mental illness or stigmatize them, it only makes them worse. Don’t try to fix them. That is not your job. Lay aside your feelings and judgments and try to approach them with love and acceptance. Validate their pain and be there for them in whatever capacity they will allow. If you loved one has attempted or is currently planning a suicide attempt and hasn’t received medical help. Get it for them today, you just may save their life.