Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rain Garden

I read a comment on Twitter recently about how having a good hobby can help people manage mental illness.  This blog is that for me, and we are also starting to homeschool (not that educating my child is a hobby, but you know what I mean).  As part of homeschooling, I want to incorporate a new hobby - a rain garden.  Now, I'm not much of a gardener (read: my neighbors wish I did something with our landscaping).  But when I saw the rain garden program sponsored by the city, I got interested.

What's a Rain Garden?
A rain garden uses native plants with deep root systems to soak up storm water runoff as an alternative to water filling up local sewer systems.  The garden has sloped edges to encourage rainwater to stay in the garden and soak in to the ground instead of flowing to other areas.  They are popular all over the world (Australia, the United Kingdom, the USA).

Why a Rain Garden?
My oldest will be in kindergarten starting this fall, and I am currently working through planning content for his school year.  I recently read The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis.  The book's bottom line was that kids in preschool and early elementary are most academically successful through experiencing life with a loving and interactive adult.  Their environment (whatever that environment is) is their curriculum.  My goal with this rain garden is to create an environment in which my kids can interact with God's creation (wildflowers! birds! butterflies!) in a way that breeds curiosity and sparks learning.  This happened yesterday as we started to dig the garden and my son discovered a new found love for worm collecting.  The kid who refused to touch a worm earlier this season was excitedly digging them out of the ground with his bare hands and transferring them to their new home in his collection jar (with holes for air).

How much have you gotten done on the Rain Garden so far?
Good question!  I excavated all of the 60 square feet of the garden last night and this afternoon.  The clay soil is MUCH heavier and muddier than I anticipated, which is making sloping the edges a bit of a challenge.  I'm hoping that in the morning (maybe I can stay up after the baby's early morning feeding?!) much of the soil will have dried and it will be easier for me to slope those edges.  We have the plants already, and I need to get them in the ground before they die!

What hobbies do you (or a loved one) have that help you manage mental illness?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pride and Authenticity

Why is it so hard to be authentic with others?  I've had several opportunities in recent months to share my story, both on the blog and in other areas of my life.  The more I talk about it, the easier it gets.  Although I do have to say that writing anonymously on the blog is a whole lot easier than talking face-to-face with people I've known for years who have no idea of my mental struggles.  (Click here for why I'm writing anonymously.)

I don't really have a problem telling people in real life that I struggle with anxiety and depression (I once heard depression referred to as the common cold of mental illness).  These two things seem to be fairly common and well understood by the general public.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Status Update and Homeschooling

Status Update

Today is the 11th day of my increased dosage of medication, and I'm happy to report that I feel much better.  Praise the Lord!  I'm managing the OCD instead of it managing me.  I've been able to focus this week on preparing to homeschool my oldest two (Kindergarten and preschool), but more about that in a minute.

Today has been a little rough, but still nowhere close to where I was a couple of weeks ago.  My first intrusive thought this morning happened while I was getting ready for church.  I banged my elbow on a jewelry box while I was getting dressed, and it really hurt.  I said, "MAN!" afterwards, and I was afraid I had cussed instead.  I had already prayed my morning prayer (my ERP plan for compulsive praying = praying only three times a day), so I lived with the intrusive thought all the way to church, through dropping the kids off at Sunday School, and into the beginning of the church service.  And then I gave in to the compulsion to ask for forgiveness through writing a prayer down.  This used to be a big problem for me - very much a part of the OCD.  Well, then another intrusive thought came (not surprising) when I thought a cuss word during the worship songs, and the cycle started over.  I contemplated writing down another prayer asking for forgiveness, but I knew it was the OCD.  So I handed the paper to my husband and instead focused on the sermon and the service.

These verses were shared during the service, and I think that they are especially applicable to those of us with mental illness.

My soul finds rest in God alone

Such a good reminder that my salvation comes from God alone - not from perfect performance on my part.  Even if I did think/say cuss words (or sin in any way), God has forgiven me.  I have trusted in Him.  Jesus paid the price for all of my sins.  I'm trying to live forgiven instead of fearfully.

The rest of the morning/early afternoon was pretty good until just a little bit ago.  I read my Bible and prayed my afternoon prayer, and faced another (common, at least to me) intrusive thought.  What if I didn't end my prayer correctly?  I'm resisting the compulsion to pray again and am working through the accompanying anxiety.  These compulsions are hard to resist, but God is bigger than my compulsions.  


On another note, I've really enjoyed thinking through homeschooling for next year.  We have registered for Classical Conversations, which I'm excited about.  We had our first community get-together on Thursday where I met other moms in the community and my son got to play with his new schoolmates.  I'll attend a parent practicum this summer, which I think will be really helpful as we embark on this new journey.

I went to a homeschool conference last weekend and was able to pick out our math and language arts curriculum for this coming year:

My homeschooling goals this summer are:
  1. Teach my 5-year-old to read (we're ordering the IEW curriculum hopefully very soon)
  2. Prepare for next year (how to document schooling, order other curriculum, etc.)
  3. Clean out my office to make it a usable school room

Have you had any experience (good or bad) with the IEW or Saxon curricula?  Any other suggestions?  How have you implemented the Gospel Project curriculum in to homeschooling?  Where is the best place to find used homeschool curriculum?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Caring for the Weary Mind, Part 2

Quick post today...I have some Mary Higgins Clark reading to do.  :)

I decided to continue yesterday's mission of taking it easy again today.  Tomorrow marks the beginning of a busy few days, and I want to make sure not to overdo it like I did on Monday.

Good intentions, but this morning was not as restful as I'd hoped (side effect of having kids, right?!).  Things went pretty well.  Until the baby didn't sleep for her morning nap.  And my 3-year-old had a potty training accident (which involved pooping on the kitchen floor - seriously?!) which took some time to thoroughly clean up - all while the baby was crying.  And my 5-year-old pushed his brother over throwing a Hot Wheels car at Lego Thor...

But all is quiet now, which is why this post is short.  The kids are resting.  The sun is out.  The sky is blue.  The birds are singing, and that lawn chair recliner is calling my name.  I've got my (decaf) coffee, chocolate, and book.  I'm ready.

What are you doing to take care of your mind today?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Caring for the Weary Mind

Exhaustion.  Sleep-deprivation.  Limitations.  All unwelcome side effects of mental illness, especially during a slump (I'm currently coming out of my 4th slump since November).

Sometimes adding life to mental illness breeds some of that exhaustion and those limitations.  Yesterday was one of those days.
  • It was Monday, so I was back to being the only parent home during the day to manage these three kiddos while my husband is at work.
  • My cousin's wife came over to go through my maternity/baby boy clothes, which was great, but that meant that:
    • I had to have the house presentable - lots of deep cleaning that was necessary, but also lots of work.
    • She stayed for most of the kids' naptime, so I didn't get nearly enough alone time to recharge (more about being an introvert below).
  • I took all three kids grocery shopping right when they woke up from naps.  
  • We got home to a surprise visit from my brother-in-law and two nephews (4 and 1).
  • I cooked part of dinner last night which I hadn't planned on.
  • I walked with a friend I hadn't connected with in awhile after dinner.
  • I had a not-so-restful night due to eating chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream before bed (bad idea), feeding the baby in the wee hours of the morning, and an unusually early wake up call from the baby who was more than ready to start her day.

As a freshman in college, I took the Myers-Briggs assessment.  I was shocked when the results showed that I was almost right down the middle introvert/extrovert.  I would have put myself as way, way, WAY extroverted, probably because I compulsively filled my time (you can read more about my OCD struggle with time here).  Most of that time was spent with others DOING stuff.  

But the older I get, the more I see that the results were right.  I am an introvert.  I think having kids (and losing any personal space I once thought I had) brought out my true personality more.   

I can easily get overloaded, especially with a day like yesterday.  So I decided to take today off.  Not off from my responsibilities.  I'm still taking care of the kids, making dinner, straightening up the house, doing the dishes, and cleaning up potty training messes (ugh).  Rather, I took off from rushing around trying to accomplish things, that frantic scramble that I can so easily fall in to.

Instead, I've taken it easy today.  
  • We took our time getting ready this morning.  
  • I made pancakes for breakfast.  
  • I watched a couple of shows with the boys.  
  • We went for a leisurely walk.  
  • I picked up some light reading from a friend (I've been reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and TrueFaced by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch - although interesting, this is NOT light reading; Karen Kingsbury and Mary Higgins Clark are more what I need!).  
  • I'm protecting this naptime by not answering my phone.  
  • I'm meeting a friend for coffee tonight sans kids.  
  • I'll be able to relax with my husband after the kids go to bed - watch some TV or a movie.  
Today, I'm taking care of my weary body and mind.

What are some things that you do to take care of yourself?  I'd love to hear!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Being Diagnosed - Part 3

This post is the third installment of journal entries from the time period I was diagnosed with OCD.  You can see Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

October 19, 2004

My mom thinks I should go back to see Dr. ________________ again soon, because I was really supposed to go back in September.  I felt very close to where I was in February today, and I didn't like it.  Lord, please help me not to slip into that pit again.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Call for Comments

Comment problems yet again...

I'm hoping that the issue is now fixed, so in an effort to test that out, would you share a bit of your journey with us in the comments below?

What is your experience with mental illness?  Do you struggle with it?  Does a loved one struggle?  Has your relationship with God factored in to your struggles/recovery at all?

Feel free to make your post as long or as short as you'd like.  Thanks!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Getting Back to Myself

The postpartum roller coaster I've been on over the past 6 months has led me to wonder about increasing the anti-depressant medication (Zoloft) that I have been on for several years.  I thank God for the team of medical professionals that He has given me.  I am truly grateful.  I had appointments with both my therapist and the nurse practitioner at my psychiatrist's office last night and this morning.

The Therapy Appointment

The therapy appointment was difficult but good.  My suffering and mental exhaustion were pretty apparent, I believe.  I had a list of things to talk about, and a medication increase was number one on that list.  I thought he might discourage me from increasing the medication, but instead he helped me figure out what to ask the nurse practitioner.  He suggested other medications that might be helpful, and he encouraged me to write out my "symptom profile" to hand to her (see below).

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Being Diagnosed - Part 2

This post is Part 2 of journal entries from the time leading up to me being diagnosed with OCD.  You can read Being Diagnosed Part 1 here.

I hoping these excerpts provide some insight in to my journey.

March 28, 2004

mental healthI woke up to fear again.  Why can't it just leave me alone?!  I was worried yesterday about different stuff, and I had a headache all day.  

I'm still afraid of free time, and there is this study out about anti-depressants and how sometimes they cause people to commit suicide.  I'm on Lexapro.  That scares me, too.  I wish I was perfect...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Medication Increase?

Wow.  Rough week, friends.  Same old heavy stuff.

I've been reading through some old journal entries (see the post Being Diagnosed - Part 1) which are very interesting.  Initially, reading through the ways I was feeling 12 years ago helped me remember that the slump I'm in now will get better.  God has always brought me through the valleys.  But then the depressive thoughts arrived - why am I STILL dealing with this?  I just want to be healed.

Every couple of months since the beginning of the year, I have had 1-2 weeks of difficulty, then I am back to managing the illness well for about the next 6 weeks.  And then I hit the next slump.  Each time the slump feels unbearable.  I desperately search for help and do the cognitive and therapeutic work I know I need to do to get out.  I cry out to God and work through it by His sustaining grace.  And I get better.  There are still hard days, but overall I do okay.  And after about a month-and-a-half, I fall into the slump again, which is where I am now.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Being Diagnosed - Part 1

My mental health journey has been a long one (you can see highlights of it here), and most of it has been chronicled in the large pile of journals gathering dust on my office floor.  Obviously, cleaning is not currently one of my compulsions.  :)

The journals in the picture on the right chronicle one of the hardest seasons of OCD I have experienced.  I was in college and severely distressed by intrusive thoughts and my inability to stop the resulting anxiety and depression.  The excerpts shared below are from the brown journal.

NOTE: I purposely left out the name of my doctor (who is also a family friend) and the city I live in.  For reasons why, see my blog's About page.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hard Days

Mornings are Hard
The last three days have been hard.  I mean, really hard - especially the mornings.  I'm not sure why mornings are generally harder for me, but they most certainly are.

It might have something to do with having the whole day in front of me and the uncertainty of what will happen - whether or not I'll struggle, events of the day, etc.

Or it could be that being the only person responsible for the kids for the majority of the day while my husband works can also be overwhelming.  Being a stay-at-home mom is exactly what I want to do, but when you throw mental illness in to the mix, things that should be easy just sometimes aren't.

Or it could be that we have chosen not to be a busy family.  Growing up, I stayed compulsively busy (read more about my relationship with time and OCD here) to a fault.  It wasn't healthy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I was wrong

Since I posted about ERP regarding reading my Bible, I've received some helpful feedback from my therapist.  My compulsions include that I need to read my Bible each day and that I need to do it during the first free time that I have during the day.
Bible and OCD - Scrupulosity

My therapist suggested that I instead practice ERP by making "a different choice that is still based in truth and is healthy."

Truth - Daily reading of the Bible is a good discipline for a maturing Christian.  It is not essential to salvation, but it does assist in growth.

Healthy - 1-2 chapters per day; NOT reading verses over and over until I feel "right"

Different Choice - Continue reading a healthy amount of the Bible in a healthy way daily.  Read at a different time each day instead of reading it during the first amount of free time I have.  

I'm still struggling greatly with this, especially pushing through the high anxiety that initially comes from resisting a compulsion.  Any feedback that you have is very appreciated!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Beat Up Brain

Why are some days so much harder than others?  And why do things that I've been able to accept or ignore in the past suddenly become such looming issues?

My brain feels like a towel that's been wrung outThis morning it felt like someone took my brain out of my head, squeezed it like a wet towel, and put it back in.  Tired, anxious, and beat up.

I latched on to the obsession this morning of reading my Bible, and I really, really struggled with whether or not to read it.  I eventually decided that since it felt compulsive, I should probably not read it at all today (like I did over the weekend).  But that still didn't feel right - lots of high anxiety. When I thought about reading it, I felt guilty at the thought of giving in to the compulsion.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Just Do It

I have a problem.  If something is uncomfortable, I put it off.  Especially if it's big and overwhelming.  Like figuring out our finances or organizing medical bills (do we really owe that much?!).  Or potty training.  Or sleep training.  Or fill-in-the-blank.  Obviously, this is neither helpful nor productive.

But do you know what's even more uncomfortable than actually dealing with those things?  Having them hang over your head because you're avoiding them.  The angst that comes with the build up.  The thought of all that it will take to fulfill these responsibilities.