I was asking myself “what’s wrong with me?” Why do I always have such awful thoughts? Then, in that moment, my brain chatter went completely quiet, like somebody pushed the mute button. What is this….silence? Total silence. At first I was shocked to find myself in a quiet mind and then I was immediately captivated by this unusual happenstance.
It was a rare, short but beautiful, moment because the internal dialogue that anxiety creates is unique to anxiety sufferers and it never ends. We are always worrying about something, anything, and everything. This is why I wanted to create a brief window into my life, giving people an idea of what its like to live with anxiety.
Then, the next moment, it was gone. All the brain chatter came rushing back.
What if I get sick? What if I die? What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t get accepted? What if I fail? What if I hurt someone? What if I mess up? What will they think of me? What’s going to happen if I go? I’m hopeless. I spend too much time thinking about my thoughts. I could slice that persons face.
Suddenly, my brain shoots into overdrive. Whats wrong with me? Who thinks thoughts like that? Why do I have these thoughts? Maybe I’m a murderer. I should go to hell or maybe I should die.
What if I die now that I’ve thought that? ok. ok. ok. We’ve got a problem! *Heart starts racing* I’ve got to get help! I need to text my mom. So, I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I search for my moms number but all I can see is pixels, even though I can see clearly in my mind where my moms name is, my eyes just can’t focus on the task at hand. I’m still to worried that I’m going to die.
I could stab that person walking by.
WHAT?!?! Summer!! How could you ever think something so awful?! I must be the worst person on the planet! No one else would ever think something like that.
The Dr. said lots of people have these thoughts occasionally…but that can’t be true. Nobody thinks like that. I must be a psycho-murderer at heart.
I could punch that person.
I NEED TO GET RID OF THESE THOUGHTS!!
You have now survived just 10 seconds in my brain. For anxiety sufferers this continues for hours and hours on end.
Although my mind is a crazy place at times, I find comfort knowing I don’t need to battle alone.
“Moses answered the people, “Stand firm and you will see the the deliverance the Lord will bring you today….The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
I feel as though I fight anxiety every moment of my life but what a comfort to know that God’s got it all under control, I need only be still. The people were despairing but Moses encouraged them to watch the wonderful way the Lord would rescue them. Moses had a positive attitude! When it looked as if they were trapped, Moses called upon God to intervene. WE may not be chased by an army but we may still feel trapped by anxiety. Instead of giving in to despair when all these thoughts are rushing through our mind we need to only “stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will bring…The Lord will fight for you you need only be still.”
Sometimes our walk with God is not so much a “walk” but rather a weak, tired, crawl; sometimes its a climb up mountains of trials. This year has been packed full of trial after trial. Every single day has been a struggle. Some days I see no point in existing. This is when God grabs a hold of my heart and gives me purpose, reminding me why I’m here. Then I continue trying to live for Him. I try but so often I get distracted by c o m p a r i s o n. I start comparing my life to the lives my friends have: going to school, going out, making new friends, having fun, working.
Twenty-year-olds should be either working or going to school…certainly not spending two years in a psychiatric hospital. How am I supposed to be setting an example for younger kids when I can’t even stay home alone and how am I supposed to shine a light for Jesus when my life is in shambles and I’m surrounded by darkness? I even question God: “How am I supposed to continue living for you when for three years I haven’t felt you moving?”
What do you do when your whole world continues to fall apart? You either hold on to your brokenness and let it consume you or you turn back to Jesus and let Him calm your storm.
I guess I forget that God can use us wherever we are because He placed us here. Somehow God is going to use me right here in Parkwood hospital, even when it feels like the only thing I’ve done all year a survived. The ALMIGHTY God did not make any mistakes when He planned our lives. We are the right person, in the right place, at the right time. God designed us and our lives perfectly for the race laid out for us. God has fully equipped us for this life and His mercy is far greater than any mistake we could ever make. The same God who holds the stars in place is holding my life in place. He can use a broken life if only we have faith. Faith in God includes faith in His timing. I may not be doing what other twenty-year-olds are doing but I will get there eventually.
Sometimes our walk with God is not so much a “walk” but rather a weak, tired, crawl, sometimes it’s a climb up mountains of trials…BUT it doesn’t matter if we’re walking, crawling, or climbing, God is right beside us faithfully leading us through.
These days people seem to make a big deal of telling people to “hold on” or “be strong”…but you know what…?
It’s okay to not always be strong.
It’s okay to break down and it’s okay to cry.
Some days are just hard and we need to accept them as they are. Some days all I can do is cry out to God to come save me from this mess of a mind I carry on my shoulders. Some days my heart is in such a shamble that I wonder how I managed to get dressed in the morning never mind survive the day…but you know what…?
That’s okay too.
Some days are just hard and that’s okay.
Having a bad day and breaking down doesn’t mean you’re going to have a bad day everyday.
It simply means that you had a bad day.
Crying on a hard day doesn’t make you weak, it simply makes you human.
It’s okay to not always be okay and it’s okay to not always be strong.
Fight when you can but relax when you need to. It’s okay to be scared and overwhelmed just don’t let it consume you.
Let it be okay to not be okay and okay to not always be strong. When we are so weak we feel like quitting we must allow God to continue to carry us through no matter how badly you want to give up. Gods power is made perfect when we are not enough.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
~2 Corinthians 12:9New Living Translation (NLT)
Over the past year and a half I have been battling severe depression (which leads to suicidal thinking)-along with psychosis (Which is mainly controlled with medication now) and severe OCD. In that time my depression has been in a downward spiral.
Even with each medication we tried I’ve just been feeling worse and worse. Medications were making me feel hopeless. I felt as if every few months my Dr would say, “Here’s another medication to try. It may work but probably not so welcome to your life for the next two months while we wait to see if this works,” (OK, maybe they didn’t quite say it like that…)
Then every few months I would report “No change” (in fact, I was feeling worse). I’ve been stuck in a hopeless downward spiral of depression. All I ever feel like doing is sleeping but the OCD makes me need to try and distract myself from my thoughts. No matter how hard I’ve tried to make myself feel happy I’m just not. Happiness feels so distant; out of reach.
Because nothing is helping my depression we are trying electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they put me to sleep and then shock my brain into a controlled seizure. The weird thing about ECT is that no one knows exactly how/why it works. All they know is that it “resets” the chemicals in the brain.
I started ECT on Wednesday (Jan. 21st) and I’ll have up to 20 treatments. There is a lot of hope that ECT will work for me. I’ve seen a few other people have really great results from ECT and I’m hoping to see the same for me. So far I’ve only had two treatments so it is too early to see a change but the treatments have gone really well-my body is responding well to the treatments.
After the ECT is finished we will still be going to Toronto to get assessed and get some treatment for the OCD.
In the Bible, Canaan was a land with giants. The Anakites may have been 7-9′ tall. Many of the walls around the city were up to 30′ tall! The Israelites fear was understandable but not justified because the All Powerful God had already promised them victory. Sometimes I find myself fearful of the war raging inside my heart. The battle of good & evil; joy & sadness. I focus on the negatives and doubt God will actually pull through and help me find victory.
“Where can we go? Our brothers made us lose heart. They say the people are stronger and taller than we are with walls up to the sky. We even saw Anakites there.Then I said to you ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you just as you saw him do in Egypt and you saw how The Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you travelled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.” Deuteronomy 1:29-33
Although the road God wants us to take is sometimes scarier and harder, God has promised to lead the way and take care of us just as He has brought us this far in our journey.
Please pray that I will trust God when he says He will win the victory in my battle. Please pray that the ECT works and for as few side effects as possible.
I don’t understand why you’ve placed me on this journey. Don’t you see that it’s too hard for me?
Do you see me?
Do you care?
Where are you?
Why aren’t you helping me?
How long will you leave me here struggling just to breathe?
I’m drowning in pain; I weep all night long. My cheeks are stained with tears.
How long must I wrestle with these thoughts and live with this sorrow in my heart? I’ve built up all these tall walls around me to keep everyone at a safe distance but I’m lonely, Lord. Heal me because I cannot go one more step. I am faint; my mind is in agony; all night long my soul is in anguish. I’m worn out from all my anxieties.
How long, O Lord, how long?
Sincerely, The Hurt and Broken
Dear the Hurt and Broken,
I have heard your weeping. I keep track of all your sorrows. I have collected all your tears in my bottle. I have recorded each one in my book. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time for war and a time for peace. There is time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven. My timing is perfect for I know what I am doing. Although this season hurts, I have a plan for your life, trust me. Do not give up this fight because I know the outcome. I have already won the Victory. Daughter, I love you so much.
I’m sorry that I ever doubted you. I know that you are perfect and holy. I’m so grateful that you hear every tear that falls and answer every request. Help me to take hold of my faith and hang on no matter what the storms of tomorrow bring. Right now hope is dangled in the winds of uncertainty. I don’t struggle with whether you will deliver on your promise to make something beautiful from the shattered remains of my life-I just wonder when. I thank you that I have recovered enough to believe that things will get better…somehow…someway. And maybe, just maybe, you’re not finished with me yet. Please help me to survive until the next chapter of my life.
Sincerely, your Daughter
Dear Daughter, Remember that I am holding you with invisible hands. Don't worry about the rest. Sincerely, God
My last post was about how to help me and what to say so I thought there should also be a post about things NOT to say to someone who is struggling with a mental illness. So many people want to help me but aren’t exactly sure how…so instead they chat away and tell me about what helped their “Great-Aunts-Cousins’-Sister-in-law” when they were depressed 25 years ago…I’m sorry, but what helped you or your friend may not work for me, and quite honestly, I don’t really want to hear about it. Here are some examples of what NOT to say to someone struggling with an mental illness:
Have you tried….(I get this one a lot)
Do you have any unresolved sin in your life?
There’s always someone worse off than you
No one said life was fair
Don’t feel sorry for yourself
Everyone gets depressed
Get over it
Just think positive
It’s your own fault
Believe me, i know how it feels. I was depressed once (for several days) and I just ___ and then I was fine!
Snap out of it
You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
Go out and have some fun
I know how you feel
All of these statements show that you don’t know what your talking about. Most people don’t understand….and that’s really ok! I would prefer it to be awkwardly quiet than hear one of these phrases. Try inserting some of these
Hey, diabetic, you’d feel better if you came off those meds.
Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, we create our own reality.
Hey, person who has MS, I know how you feel.
You get the idea. These sound completely unreasonable, and it’s no more reasonable to say to someone struggling with mental illness
I do understand that people don’t know they are being hurtful. People are trying to help. I get it. But here’s the thing, my illness is just as real as anyone else’s. Please stop forcing me to convince you.
And a Personal Update:
I’ve been back in the hospital for the past 3 months. We are waiting to get an OCD assessment in Toronto to see if they can offer me the OCD treatment that I need and I’m also meeting with a research team. If they decide that they can’t help me there than we will start filling out info to head to Boston’s OCD program. Please pray that we can have the assessment soon so I can finally get good treatment that I desperately need!
Treatment-wise we are waiting to go to Toronto to meet with an OCD treatment team. This team will evaluate my OCD symptoms and decide if they think they would be able to help me there or if a hospital like Boston would be better suited to my needs.
We all find ourselves in situations where we feel we have no control, where we feel hopeless and alone. Maybe you’re suddenly without a job, lost in a stormy dark night, your relationship or marriage is spiralling out of control, your child shows you no respect, or a sickness or death leaves you breathless and now you feel your friends distancing themselves from you because they don’t know what to say or do. What would you like people to do for you if you were in one of these situations?
Most likely you would want them to do for you as I would want you to do for me. When you know I am cutting to try and stop the pain, when I’m running away from fear, when I am hearing illogical voices in my head that are constantly telling me untruths, or when you see me crouching in a corner, alone and inclosed by an inescapable sadness, please:
Take my hand and lift me up.
Show me compassion, not pity or disgust.
Tell me, retell me, assure me, that I am a woman of worth and significance.
Show me you love me with an unconditional love (Don’t just tell me!).
Show me grace.
Treat me as you would a “normal” person-because I am.
Invite me to be-and accept me as-your true friend.
Give me a shoulder to cry on.
Don’t abandon me.
Don’t be afraid to talk with me. I can share what I am comfortable with (some days will be different than others).
Try and understand me (all I ask is that you try).
Be honest and tell me what you’re thinking.
Don’t try and be my psychologist-leave that to the experts.
Pray for me and with me-only God is my complete healer!
Read/message me the truths of God’s word to me-I need to be reminded often.
I’m here for you
You’re not alone in this
You are important to me
Do you want a hug? (please ask because somedays it may make things worse)
When all this is over, I’ll still be here and so will you
I can’t understand exactly what you are going through, but I am here to listen and support you
I’m not going to leave or abandon you
You’re not crazy
I love you (only if you mean it)
It sucks that you’re in so much pain
I’m not going to leave you; I’m going to take care of myself, so you don’t need to worry that your pain might hurt me
What can I do to help?
This must be very hard for you
I’m here for you; I’ll always be here
You are amazing, strong, and beautiful
You’ll get through this
You never have to apologize for your illness or feeling this way
I’m not scared of you
These statements show that you recognize that I am in pain, that you don’t understand, and that you will be there for me anyways. Sometimes the best thing you can do is give me a little escape from my mind. Distract me with something fun and leave my illness aside for a while. I love to have fun but sometimes my illness gets in the way.
I know I have significance in God’s sight. I know I am loved by him and that gives me a sense of purpose, hope, peace, and comfort that no one will ever experience unless you know Jesus Christ personally…but would it ever feel great if I could feel that, and hear that from you as well. I know it would speed my recovery and it would give you a sense that God is using you to heal me.
*Thank you to my wonderful Papa,
Jim Johnston, for helping me with this post! I love you!