You may have noticed a decrease in frequency of posts on the blog in the past few weeks. There is a reason for that. I was unexpectedly blindsided by a relapse of depression and anxiety this past month. And at first I was embarrassed to write about it. I build this blog on the picture of a happy mother, writer and cook, living the dream in the gorgeous Flathead Valley. I didn’t want to show you the struggles I was still having. I didn’t even want to show them to myself. But I couldn’t write a gushy post either because it just wasn’t true. And I hate things that aren’t true. I owe it to you to give you an honest blog, a true account of what it is to be a mother, to be me the Mother.
So, yes, March was a month of being blindsided. I say blindsided, because after such a difficult year last year, the year in which my father died, the year in which I underwent strong conflict at the church I pastored, the year in which I struggled to give up my job for the sake of being with my daughter, the year in which I battled insomnia, the year in which I underwent a biopsy…after all of that, there is so much going well in my life.
For the first time in at least 4 years, I have friends nearby that I can call, spend time with, and be myself with. I live in a beautiful area surrounded by the splendor of God’s creation—beautiful, snow-capped mountains, a glistening lake. I am finally able to follow my heart and be home with my daughter. I have a wonderful husband who is thriving in his new call, and is highly supportive of me. I have many ways to express and broaden my love of cooking. There is something enjoyable to do in the community all the time. I have the pleasure of sitting in a Bible study and just listening and soaking it in as a respite for the soul. For Pete’s sake, I have this blog…and I’m finally writing again for the first time in years. There is so much going right in my life.
And yet, I found myself yet again stricken with high anxiety and a strong dose of depression. It made me very upset with myself because there is no earthly reason I should feel that way.
I began to feel really hopeless. Would I never escape this? Could I really not let myself be happy?
I read recently in one of my books about anxiety that it often hits when things are going “too well.” A person who struggles with anxiety almost does a little better sometimes when there is an external, challenging situation. It sucks up their attention, gives them a visible enemy to fight. But in good times, our nature still is on “high alert,” still expects struggle and conflict and picks a fight with itself.
Yet again, my internal conflict became so physical and scary that I finally took myself back to the doctor. I found it impossible to sleep without my sleeping pill, felt hopeless, had racing thoughts. I began to feel really bad like clock-work at 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. Then one day, I had an anxiety attack that lasted all day. That was the day I trucked myself in to the doctor.
A week or two later, I am feeling better each day. I was able to talk things out with a friend who was understanding and listened. A dosage adjustment of my antidepressant has helped a great deal. I’ve also been working hard to improve my diet. (I think I got a bit overly excited at all the delicious desserts available in the Flathead and had been consuming way too much white sugar and white flour.) After doing some reading on the internet about a diet to help with depression and anxiety, I am bumping up my whole grains, flax seed, and walnut consumption (low blood sugar seems to greatly increase my anxiety). I’ve lowered my coffee consumption a bit. I’m trying to eat other Omega-3 rich foods like fish and avocado. I’ve dug out books on anxiety and the issues I struggle with and am working on facing my anxieties, instead of running from them. Turns out the more we suppress and run from our anxieties, the more they dominate our lives. Antidepressants work to help us better cope with anxieties, but they don’t eliminate them from our lives. And if we run from those anxieties, we will still have to come back and cope with them later.
I feel good about the fact that yesterday although I had two or three attacks of anxiety, I was able to work through them. I was able to lean into the anxiety and face the fear and find relief.
The sun is out for the second day in a row and that helps too.
I’ve come to see that I am a person in recovery from anxiety and depression. I will probably never fully live without it. But it doesn’t have to dominate my life and doesn’t mean I can’t experience joy. I will have relapses. I’m sure of that. Sometimes they might make logical sense and sometimes they might not. But if I can lean into the anxiety, the fear will pass and I will gain courage for the next challenge. There is a full and wonderful life to be lived, even for a person like me that struggles with this disorder.