When Pen Meets Paper…a KEY

I had an experience early this morning that reminded me that everyone is fighting a battle; everyone is facing some sort of challenge; everyone needs a little slack.  We live in a fallen world which means there are obstacles.  Without the obstacles, growth would not happen.

Whether or not you are trying to unlock depression or anxiety, the battles are real.  Today I offer you hope–hope that the way in which you respond to your battles can be peaceful.  You really CAN go to war with a peaceful heart.  And that peace is worth more than all the money in the world, more than any possible earthly experience.

Here is an article written two years ago about the benefits of writing…especially about negative experiences.  The only thing I would change about this article is to explain that getting out the negative emotions connected with an experience means to totally eradicate the negativity–which means to burn the paper or rip it up and throw it away.  The experience can then be recorded again but without the strong negative emotions.

It is important to record our challenges and what we have learned from them–without the fire and emotion of negativity.  Try it.  It matters!

When Pen Meets Paper…

Joy…REALLY? Another KEY

If you are LDS, you most likely had a lesson today on joy.  Here is what I wanted to say but did not have the opportunity:

I had a very difficult time feeling joy during my journey with clinical depression.  I did everything that was suggested today:  I read my scriptures, I prayed, I served, I accepted callings, I loved. And I still felt like (pardon me) crap!  I felt helpless to change…. I believed that joy will naturally descend upon us when we do all of these things.  After all, that is what seems to be  preached over the pulpit.  But it wasn’t happening for me. 
Let me describe to you two experiences that deal directly with my lack of feeling joy.

First, In 2008 we went on a cross country trip as a family.  We went to the Church History sites of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There were so many amazing sites and adventures and it was an incredible experience for our family.  We were driving on a stretch of road somewhere and I put my hand out to feel the warm air.  I glanced at the side mirror and saw my reflection.  My brow was a bit furrowed and there wasn’t much happiness in my countenance.  I distinctly remember wondering, “Why do I feel this way?  Am I really going to have to go the rest of my life feeling empty?  And sad?  And without real joy?  We are having amazing experiences as a family and I feel unhappy.”
The second one is a more general feeling that pervaded the years of struggle.  While Prozac helped me to be able to cope, it numbed me.  I couldn’t feel anything more than dark on the worst days and “okay” on the other days.  It got to the point where I just literally did not feel joy.  Sure there were moments of feeling happy for a certain situation.  But to really feel hope or joyful celebration rarely, if ever, happened.

So when I hear messages like I did today, I think about the men, women, and youth who are hearing the same message. I wonder if they are feeling what I felt.  For me, it was too easy to feel despair, like I was doing something wrong.  I certainly was not feeling the joy.  It was easy to feel beaten down.  It was too easy to believe that I was guilty of missing an opportunity somewhere along the line.  It was easy to believe that I was not good enough.
Joy is a choice, yes.  If you are battling depression or any other mental illness, I know that this will sound cliche.  I know you will think that people who say this just do not understand.  I know because the same thoughts ran around in my head, too.  “Thinking a happy thought” is NOT the anecdote to depression or anxiety or any other mental illness.  It’s about getting to the root of the illness FIRST.  
I now know how to get to the root.  I understand now that joy is a choice and it is attainable after the root is exposed.  I know how to get to that place now.  I didn’t then. I had no idea that I had any choice in the matter. I learned to choose to do something about the lack of joy.  I chose to practice a new behavior.  I share a tool in this former post called “Weed and Feed.”  I invite you to make it real this week.  My intention is to help you build strength by consciously saying, “I am choosing to find joy” and then to practice with this tool.  If you practice both – change will  result — and you’ll find that a new pathway has opened up.
Move forward.  It matters!

Postpartum Depression–KEY Links

I have five children.  I had them in seven years.  There were many days and nights, months and years, of “things being gloriously out of balance” as my husband would say!

I don’t recall ever feeling anything more than the “baby blues” with my first four children.  According to the Mayo Clinic (2012), symptoms of the “baby blues” may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decreased concentration
  • Trouble sleeping
Typically, for the diagnosis to be in this category, any of these symptoms could last a couple of weeks.  Postpartum depression, however, usually moves into more than just “baby blues.”  Some of the symptoms can include:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Depression hit me square in the face after the birth of our fifth child.  At the time, I really had no idea about any of this.  I had heard the words but I had no personal experience so it just didn’t seem real.  That all changed when our baby was almost five months old and I just could not hold it together any more.  I had many of the symptoms listed above.  I distinctly remember looking out my bedroom window one mid morning and saying, “What am I doing wrong?  Why do I feel so sad, so frustrated, so angry, so lost?”
I had been trying everything I knew to do at that time–and trying really hard.  I thought that God would just take it away if I prayed hard enough.  While some people have their burdens lifted this way, I think most of mankind is allowed to be refined as a result of their challenges; and that refinement would not happen if the challenge was quickly and easily removed.
What happened next is how God did answer me–through another person.  I talk about it in this post.  

As I have pondered for a few days on what I might say about postpartum depression, I came up with three things that I wish I had known to do after each of my deliveries–and especially after my last one.  What is interesting is that the Mayo Clinic article has some of the same conclusions!

1) Your body has just gone through a MAJOR event!  Your hormones are going to be unbalanced.  Drink more water and eat more raw foods.  Find a doctor you trust who is willing to help you balance your hormones–and the more naturally he/she will go about it, the better off you and your baby will be!  Find a really good nutritional supplement.  Take it every day!

2)  You are going to be sleep deprived.  It’s just a fact.  If you have other children, the amount of stress is going to escalate. However, how you cope with the loss of sleep and extra stress is something you can control.  When someone offers to take your other children for a little while, let them!  I will always remember a neighbor who came over and told me to take a nap while she took care of all five of my children.

3)  In my opinion, the most important thing a new mother can do is to properly feed her emotional self.  If a new mother believes that locking up her feelings–whatever they are–is just what moms do, she will pay the price.  And so will her spouse and children.  In this blog I have shared some tools and I will continue to share more.  If I had only one to choose, it would be to write and burn.  I would write down exactly what is going on in my head.  I would not wait.  I would not pretend it is just going to go away.  It will not.  It will rear its ugly head another day…or another year when you least expect it to. 

 And after you have written one day, take out a pen the next day and write 10 things you are grateful for.  This is the filling in part.  This is very important.  Nature abhors a vacuum and will too quickly fill it back in with negativity.  Fill in with light!  This tool is called “Weed and Feed.”

I have not researched fathers and this subject.  My hunch is that there are many men who feel left out of what is happening as the new cycle of life happens. It could be due to wives not explaining what it is like.  It could be that they do not understand the very real effects of childbirth and how to support their wives.  To you, I invite you to learn, seek to understand, and use the tools as well.  Bottling up resentment or anger or anything else about the change in your life as a result of a new baby will not serve you well either.:)

Are postpartum depression and the “baby blues” real?  Yes.  Do they need to escalate?  No.  If my suggestions seem like a leap of faith–a walk into the unknown–trust.  Trust that there is an answer.  I have yet to mentor someone who has not had amazing results when they diligently follow the suggestions offered and really want to find healing.

It matters.  It’s for more than just you…

Here is a SUPER video on how to get back to feeling great!  If you are still feeling the ravages of depression, search this blog more for other KEY solutions.  It matters!

Why Bottling It Up Hurts…KEY Understanding

In Mind Battles, I shared a small portion of a major piece of the puzzle that fundamentally brought me out of depression three years ago.  I hope you took seriously the invitation to write down one battle that is raging in your mind.  If you did not, I invite you to do so now.

You see, the cells that make up our bodies are doing one of three things:  creating growth, creating protection, or giving no response. (Dr. Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief).  One of the most insidious things going on inside of me as I fought depression were the battles that raged in my mind.  I told myself all sorts of stories.  I told myself why people acted the way they did.  I told myself why I couldn’t share with my husband what was really going on.  I told myself that I was an unhappy person on the inside even though I really tried to be optimistic on the outside…  The battles came and went.  Sometimes I really could step outside of myself and be genuine.  I wanted to be good.  I wanted a relationship with my Higher Power.  I wanted to be a good influence upon my children.  It was important to me to be a great mom.  It was important to me that I had a good marriage.  That’s why I persevered through the dark, the ugly, and the times when it just seemed hopeless.  This is why I never really gave up.

Maybe your story is different.  Maybe you DO want to give up.  Maybe you have none of the desires I just described.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  This is a process.  For me to tell you to just hurry up and get a desire to be true to who you really are would be like telling your car to go get its oil changed!  This is a process, a journey.  My intention is to give you a lifeline–a hope that this illness CAN be lifted from you.

One more story:  I remember one particularly extremely difficult passage of time.  I was in the depths of feeling dark, lonesome, hopeless, full of self pity, and I did not like myself.  I was angry, angry, angry!  And there really was no reason to be angry.  I had intense feelings of just burying myself–that it wouldn’t matter, that no one would miss me, and that it would certainly be nice to be done with the horrible realities of depression.  I remember going downstairs to dinner with my family and saying something like, “It would just be better if I wasn’t around.”  They were shocked that I would say something like that.  Although I didn’t lash out because I didn’t want to hurt them, my words did hurt.  Later I learned that bottling up all of this anger and frustration in this way only compounded the problem.  I needed to express.

And so, I again invite you to write out a battle that is raging in your head.  Holding it in creates cells that are in protection mode–and this mode creates high levels of stress in the body that rarely, if ever, releases.  If you’d rather not write, go somewhere to be alone and LET OUT THE ANGER, the resentment, the frustration…whatever it is.  If you’re writing, don’t reread it.    Rip it up and throw it away…or burn it!  Allow your cells to move to a place of growth instead of protection.

This song says it all…BE BRAVE!!  It matters!