Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Things I Wish I'd Noticed Sooner (Mental Health Series Pt. 3)

For a time I was convinced my 5 year-old-son was allergic to The Home Depot. Not in an “Ew, I hate that store” way but in a “Mom, my throat is closing up” way. I can remember standing in an aisle looking for some random thing, baby Josh was in the cart along with a bunch of odds and ends and Jordanne and Jacob were standing beside me when suddenly Jacob grabbed my arm with panic in his eyes, saying, “MOM, I can’t breath. I can’t breath in here. I think it’s the sawdust!” And he was so scared and literally having so much trouble breathing that I handed the baby to Jordanne, picked Jacob up and we ran out of the store—full cart stranded in the middle of aisle ten.

Actually, Yes, I am Depressed (Mental Health Series Pt. 2.5)

So I started a series on mental health and my first topic was depression and about how it’s okay to ask for help. Ironically, about one week after I published the post on depression, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had the strangest weekend. It was like I’d open my eyes in the morning and my first thought was, “I don’t want to do anything but close my eyes again.” And I felt angry that I had to get out of bed.

The temptation to shut the world out and sleep away my day was so strong. I got up but I wasn't happy about it. That was my first indication that maybe I wasn’t doing so well emotionally. I went through the motions of my day, all the while very cognizant of the fact that just barely under the surface of my thoughts was a black hole threatening to swallow me up. Everything just seemed shaded over in varied grays. Other than the fact that life is stressful in general, I couldn’t think of a single reason I would be depressed. It made no sense. The following meme's from instagram that weekend perfectly described my mood…

Am I Depressed? (Mental Health Series Pt. 2)

Sometimes, we have a blah day or two. Maybe a week, even. Perhaps we’ve gotten some bad news or work is really tough or financial woes are keeping us up at night. We might even say we’re depressed, but we can feel depressed without having clinical depression. So what’s the difference?

Often the distinction comes with how long we’ve been feeling low; blue; tired; unmotivated; numb; down or just plain miserable and how difficult it is to pull out of the fog. There are also some risk factors involved. A tendency toward depression can be hereditary, just like anxiety and other disorders.  

I had experienced rare "down times" before, but after I weaned my second child, the blue feeling just stuck with me. Like that old cartoon character with his own personal rain cloud. I couldn't seem to shake it. I tried—really hard. I prayed harder. I got more sleep. I drank more water. I read my Bible more. I did everything I could think of to make myself “get it together.” But nothing worked. (Okay, not EVERYTHING—I’d like to say I exercised but that would be taking hyperbole too far. Walking from my room to my couch doesn’t count, right?) But back to the depression…


Call Me Crazy—Or Don't (Mental Health Series pt. 1)

We’ve all got that “Crazy Aunt Betty” who talks to dust bunnies or that clowning uncle who always has a bit too much to drink at the family reunion. We’ve all seen people walking down the street alone, waving their arms, apparently in a heated discussion with no one in particular. (Of course, this was easier to spot before the advent of Bluetooth ear pieces!) We recognize that those people may be dealing with some mental health issues. 

But how about the quiet girl sitting in the corner of the coffee shop with her ear buds in, angled toward the wall. She has ADHD but you would never know that to look at her (Okay, she’s me.). Or the bespectacled professor at the front of the classroom with his perfectly tied bowtie; You’d never know he has a thirty-point checklist of things he has to do every time he leaves his house—and that’s better than he used to be with his OCD. Often mental health issues can be hidden to all but those who are very close to the person struggling. I know most people would never guess I’ve dealt with depression, ADD and even some anxiety. I mask it well, most of the time. But it’s still a very real issue I’ve had to deal with. 

You’ve probably heard the words, “That’s insane!” or “She’s got to be crazy.” Most of us say these things innocently—lightly. But the problem is that mental health isn’t something we can take lightly anymore. We see the effects of mental illness on the “breaking news” ticker daily. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee going off on a rampage, a bullied loner opening fire on his classmates, or a well-known celebrity ending her life, these things affect our world regularly and most of the time the roots of these stories are buried deep in the world of mental health. 

On What Makes Us Tick

I started this new blog a few months ago with the idea of it being a place to talk about the issues and ideas that seem to resonate with both me and a lot of the people I know. At first glance, these things may not seem to be related (which is a problem if you’re trying to figure narrow down what your blog is all about) but when I listed off the subjects that energize me I realized that they are all basically topics that flow into what makes us tick. I’m interested in talking about and understanding why we are who we are in relation to:

Imperfect Progress

But I was doing so well. Hmmff. (Insert pouting face here)

I was very proud of myself. I’d started up this new blog in February and I was determined to write every week. However, let's just say that consistency has never been my strong suit. It's never actually even been in my closet or card deck or wherever that expression comes from. So telling myself I would write weekly seemed a bit of a stretch. But I set my weekly writing time and I did it. For about two months I pushed “publish” once a week and if felt fabulous. (I know, two months doesn't seem like much to all my well organized and motivated reader friends. But for me...it was practically Mt. Everest. So go ahead, take a moment and silently applaud. Aw, shucks. You're making me blush.) Anywho...then life happened, as it does.

First, I went to a writer’s conference in April—which you would think wouldn’t be something to throw off my writing, but it did. Initially, just because I was gone for five days and then had to catch up on work and life stuff so my time was limited. But also because I was suddenly filled with so many ideas that I couldn’t seem to settle down and pick one to work on.

Days after that, in an effort to focus, I joined an amazing online course called Author School, taught by my favorite literary agent, Rachelle Gardner (you may be wondering how one decides on a favorite agent but when said agent reps all your favorite authors and has an incredible, generous website chock-full of vital info for writers, it's a no-brainer). Author School is a weekly live video course plus tons of extras online and on our Facebook group. It’s truly invaluable information and you would think that would have been something that got me writing again. But just after I started the course, my grandma passed away and that took me away from home for five days but also, obviously, took up some of my emotional bandwidth. 

So then, after I got home, I was going to get back on track. No doubt. It was gonna happen.

Until it didn’t. Because a few days later,

Tribute To My Feisty Irish Gram (1920-2018)

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine—” my alto voice cracked as it blended with my dad’s tenor. We held gram’s hands and sang one of her favorite songs, as she passed from this world to the next place. “—you’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” I couldn’t get the last three words out.

She was a feisty ninety-eight-year-old Irish woman with a room full of loved ones who spent her final hours with her. We were told she could hear us even though the morphine kept her from being able to respond with anything more than a few occasional groans. I believe she could. When I arrived, I ran my hand along her feverish forehead and back and forth through her thick gray hair. She groaned loudly. I think she knew we were there. She did the same when she heard her ninety-four-year-old sister’s voice on the phone that afternoon. Auntie Joyce was on her way from Canada and you could tell gram heard her sister’s last words to her, even though she couldn’t respond.

Just two days before, she’d been giving my dad and Uncle Jim hell because they’d kept her waiting longer than she wanted while they enjoyed a round of golf. My poor Aunt Trudy had to calm her and assure her they’d be at the nursing home to visit her soon. She didn’t want to hear it. She was spitting mad.


Maybe she knew.

No Time to Read

Continuing my series on the Miracle Morning SAVERS (the things that get me out of bed in the morning and help me start my day in the best way) I'm going to touch on the R in SAVERS today. The R stands for one of my favorite activities: READING.

Now if you're groaning and rolling your eyes right now, telling me you'd rather wait for the movie, I will admit I can't make you love reading if you don't want to. But I think I can make a case for why you may want to make time for it. I don't really need to cite research to prove that reading is good for us as that has been well established. I've never heard anyone say reading makes them dumber.

But from those I know who don't read much, I hear things like, "I wish I had time to read." Or, "I read too slow." Or, "I try to read before bed but I always fall asleep." So whether your lack of reading is a time issue, a speed issue, or a time-of-day issue, I just wanted to offer a suggestion as to how you can make reading a more regular part of your day, week & year.

I've always made time to read fiction at night because that is my entertainment. I'd rather read a good novel than watch a good TV show on most days (except when I'm sick..then it's Netflix Binge Time). But non-fiction—while I love to learn new things and read inspiring stories—I've traditionally had at least five (okay, ten) non-fiction books going at a time, all in various states of unfinished. I found it really hard to make time for a non-fiction book unless I REALLY loved it. Like the few authors who manage to combine serious, interesting subjects with pee-your-pants humor and a healthy dose of, "I hear ya" head-nodding (Jen Hatmaker and Jon Acuff, I'm looking at you)—those I can finish off in a day or two. But anything else? It found its way to the dusty pile of half-read books by my bedside. 

Free to Be Me, No Apologies

As I was thinking this over today, I thought of someone I love who has had a very intense lesson on being himself, recently. My daughter Jordanne's boyfriend, Bobby Burns, is the kind of guy who has never really been afraid to go against the grain. He's incredibly creative and smart and he has been creating YouTube content for many years, by focusing on the kind of content that is currently interesting to him. He's an entertainer and much of what he does is satire, so people don't always understand what he's getting at. (I know I don't get it much of the time!) But he still keeps doing what he loves, which has evolved over the last ten years (understandably...as an 11 year old should be interested in different things than a 21 year old!).

Is Silence a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

What do you do each morning to start your day the right way? What’s your morning routine? I used to laugh at the idea of a morning routine. First, I didn't like mornings and second I didn't like anything routine. To me that was code for boring. So it was a tall order to sell me on the idea of creating a healthy morning routine for myself. 

My "morning routine" used to be rolling out of bed a couple minutes ahead of my kids, donning my grey bath robe (Bill calls me Gandalf when I wear it) and trying to tame my bedhead a bit before going downstairs so I didn't scare my children. But when I started my day that way, I felt like I was running behind all day long. So while my recent earlier mornings are a result of needing more time to plan my days and more time to just wake up in the morning, they are also about starting my day with gratitude and finding joy in simple pleasures, like a few minutes of silence. 

Whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home dad,

Night Owl or Early Bird?

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you fall asleep by 9pm and wake up in the morning like a red-bull fueled, whirling dervish checking all the items off your To Do list by 8am? Or do you find you have to force yourself go to bed at night ("Okay, I know I've said goodnight five times but this time I'm really go—is that a two hour episode of the Voice?") and then you have to force yourself to get out of it in the morning with self-bribery involving hot caffeinated beverages? The latter has definitely been my pattern for as long as I can remember. 

I always thought it was just how I was wired. That I was a night owl and would never be able to get up early and function well throughout my day. But I think I've been wrong all this time. I don't think it's because my body is wired that way. I think it's much more to do with how I structure my day and my ADD brain and the way it functions (or doesn't function in this case...you can read my last post for more about that.) I think the number of hours of sleep a person needs is quite individual. But let's say it's 7 hours for me. I think as long as I'm getting the amount of time my body needs, I can do that from 10pm-5am just as effectively as 1am-8am. My body will adjust if I'm consistent and I can actually turn myself into a morning person. (Okay, still not the whirling dervish type...and I still need my caffeine, but I can get up earlier!)

"Everyone has ADD."

This is my normal. If you're horrified right now, you can just stop reading. It's okay, this is too long for you to read if you're not emotionally vested at this point. 😂

But if you're nodding your head in total understanding—while simultaneously thinking you have other things to do so you should probably stop reading...but you know you'll just end up scrolling instagram for the next ten minutes anyway—read on...

I never suspected I had ADD when I was young. I didn't fit the typical mold. I wasn't a hyper boy in the 80's who bounced off the walls if given a sip of kool-aid. I was actually a quiet dreamer in school. (While at home I was a non-stop talker...right mom?) I would look out the windows and let my brain take me where it willed. Or I would sit at the front of the classroom taking notes so I could pay attention to what the teacher was saying. And I did very well in school. I didn't get in trouble or have poor grades. 

Burn Calories by Bathing??

Saw this on instagram today. First of all...yay for baths that burn calories. Although, as someone who is close to six feet tall, I have to say that bathtubs really aren't made for tall people. How are we supposed to stuff our entire body in there? It's like trying to re-wrap an overstuffed Chipotle burrito...no matter how creative you get, something's gonna be sticking out. So in a bath, I always end up being half in, half out; half hot, half cold. I think that probably cuts the calorie burn down. Except, I also read that being cold can burn calories. So maybe I'm good? Maybe I'm burning double the calories?

Moot point since I won't actually bother taking a bath. Sadly, I'll never get to use that awesome hashtag: #Bathlete

But the reason I loved this instagram post was not for the idea that we can burn calories by bathing but for the humor in Glennon Doyle's post that accompanied the headline. And any time someone can justify me not running, I'm all in. My sister Sammie and I are actually going to take up running.

Tomorrow. Always tomorrow. (Right Sammie?)

Back to Glennon and humor, have you noticed how some people are just naturally funny? I think it takes looking at the world through a certain kind of rose-colored lens. One that looks for the humor in situations and remembers

This Is Me (the Greatest Showman)

And this movie, rather than a literal, historically accurate retelling of the life of the infamous ringmaster is more of an inspired commentary on giving a voice or a stage or a spotlight to those who've been invisible in society.

But as I'm guessing is true for so many others, it also hits me deeper with a laser-like intensity. In This Is Me, Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady in PT Barnum's menagerie, sings:

I am not a stranger to the dark. Hide away, they say. 'Cause we don't want your broken parts. I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars. Run away, they say, No one will love you as you are.
 
But I won't let them break me down to dust. I know that there's a place for us. For we are glorious. 
 
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave. I am bruised. I am who I'm meant to be. This is me. 
Look out 'cause here I come. And I'm marching on to the beat I drum. I'm not scared to be seen. I make no apologies, this is me. 
 
Another round of bullets hits my skin. Well fire away 'cause today I won't let the shame sink in. We are bursting through the barricades and reaching for the sun. We are warriors. Yeah that's what we've become. 

So while I'm no bearded lady (although I can't find my tweezers and there is a bit of a situation brewing) I feel like every word in this song reverberates through my soul. Going through a dark time of questioning things I used to think I was sure of, and the well-meaning but surprising reactions some people had to those questions, made me feel a bit like I had to hide. Like if I didn't believe the "right things" then I had no right to be a believer at all.

Moving Day...for my blog

These last four years have been ones of crazy change and upheaval from the normal day-to-day I had known for so many years. I went from being a 19 year stay-at-home mom/writer with four kids at home and a husband who worked a crazy amount of hours (mostly evenings) at a restaurant he co-owned...to now being a full time Real Estate Agent with just two kids at home and a husband (same one...haha...don't want to confuse) who does real estate with me. And while all that external change was obvious, what was not so obvious was all the change taking place inside of me. All the change that made me press the mute button on my writing "voice."