Monday, June 27, 2016

Holding on Through Doubt

Recent Days
Two things happened this week that are worth mentioning.

It's baaaaaaaack
The familiar nag of OCD showed up again Wednesday morning after being fairly manageable since my medication increase in May.  I wasn't really surprised since stress tends to agitate my mental health and this has been (and continues to be) a very busy month for our family.  Wednesday morning, I faltered.  I gave in to the compulsive praying, because what if I hadn't actually prayed my morning prayer?  Rookie (which I unfortunately am NOT) mistake.  Giving in ALWAYS makes it worse.  It's ALWAYS better to ride out the intrusive thought, because giving in to compulsions just heightens the anxiety.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mommys: To Work, or Not to Work?

My job is in the home, not in the workplace.  It's healthier - for me and for my family - if I don't work.

This is a hot topic in mommy circles, but please know this: my goal is to share my story, not to shame anyone.  This is my story, and hopefully it will bring you encouragement in some way!

The Dream
Since I was very young, I have wanted to be the one to take care of my children.  I have felt very strongly that I did not want to put them in regular childcare of any kind in order for me to work.  Because of the amount of influence a caregiver has, there are very few people that I trust to have regular time caring for these little ones.  I want to be the one to pour in to them, to educate them, to share my worldview, to train them.  

My Career/Mommy Journey
  • 2005 - First teaching job!
  • 2007 - Got married and managed marriage, grad school, teaching, and mentalillness fairly well
  • 2011 
    • Baby #1 - late-term preemie who spent ten days in the NICU; we came home with an apnea monitor that alerted us to his breathing or heart problems
    • I did not adjust well to having a baby during those first few months, even though I functioned well outwardly; my anxiety skyrocketed and I began to slip back in to the darkness that I had previously experienced; the adjustment to having a new baby felt amplified by mental illness
    • Returned to teaching full-time while grandparents helped with childcare
    • Resigned from classroom teaching and began teaching middle school writing online 
  • 2012 - Began consulting on the research, development, and implementation of a teacher professional development program 15-24 hours per week
working mom holding a baby balancing on a tightrope

  • 2013 
    • Baby #2 born at 34 weeks weighing 4 lb. 13 oz.; eight days spent in the NICU
    • Less than two weeks after he was born, I could feel myself sliding back into the mental illness, and we increased my medication; after that, I did pretty well for a long time; I had bad days every now and then, of course, but overall, I stayed afloat
    • I went back to consulting, increased my hours to 30 each week, and squeezed in work whenever I could while the kids were sleeping or being nannied by my sister; my husband took care of most home responsibilities (even though he was working full-time) - laundry, paying bills, shopping, the yard; I was responsible for the kids and getting my work done, and no one was in charge of keeping the house clean, doing dishes, or planning meals, but we squeaked by; eventually my hours were decreased to 20 per week
  • 2015 
    • Baby #3 born full-term with no health issues!
    • Went back to consulting 20 hours per week mostly from home with the understanding that the position was changing; I was offered the new position (less pay, more time on site, increased hours) which I turned down; I was guaranteed up to 20 hours per week through December 31 with consulting on a limited basis in the new year
    • Lots of change; I was still adjusting to having a third baby, up at night taking care of her, looking and interviewing for new jobs that I could mostly do from home...
    • October 26, I crashed; OCD and anxiety had been nibbling at the edges for weeks, but it all came crashing down on that Monday morning when I slid quickly into one of the worst lapses of OCD/anxiety/depression that I've ever had
    • I worked on being healthy by going to counseling, increasing my medication, decreasing my work hours to 15 per week, and holding on to the truth that God is bigger than this mental illness; my therapist encouraged me to consider that not working might be healthy
  • 2016 
    • started teaching adjunct classes at a local college
    • hired to do educational consulting 10-15 hours per month 
Cutting my income by over 90%
My husband is a hard and faithful worker who brings home a steady income.  We've never lived on just his paycheck plus a little from me, and honestly, it has not been easy.  And even though money is tight, we've started tithing again.  We pay our bills (mostly) on time, and we track what we spend our money on using Every Dollar, Dave Ramsey's budgeting website.  We plan ahead for what we need to spend my husband's paycheck on.  We're coming up with solutions for the times we're short.  We shop for groceries at Aldi or a discount surplus store where we can get food for very cheap.  We may be eligible for government assistance (haven't checked in to that one yet).  

The Result
The mental illness is gone!  Yeah, right - I wish!  No, it's still present, but with much less intensity.

Work in addition to taking care of my kids was honestly just too much for me.  The amount of stress involved, the increased brain felt divided and like I was hanging on by a thread.  The pressure that comes from trying to meet others' expectations (realistic or not) was a really bad combination with my mental illness.

Taking work mostly out of the equation has allowed me to focus on the things that really matter - my relationships with my kids and husband and the home environment I can provide for them.  I can focus on taking care of my family instead of just getting by.  With a calmer and less-stressed brain, I can be in charge of the laundry, meal planning, shopping, and cooking - and now my husband's main responsibilities are to work and be with the kids.  I'm able to take adequate time to prepare our homeschool year in a healthy way instead of just throwing things together haphazardly.  I'm more present with my children because my mind is not preoccupied with work.  I can volunteer and be more involved at church.

When I asked my therapist if it would be healthier for me not to work, and he said yes, by 1000%.  And that's something I've come to agree with 100%!

How did you decide your role in your family?  Is it healthier for you to work or to stay home?

Friday, June 17, 2016

What do you do to thrive?

This is a busy month for us.  In fact, it's probably the busiest month we've had since my daughter was born in August and I had a postpartum mental illness relapse starting in November.

And since increased stress can lead to increased mental health struggles...I'm doing my best to keep that stress level down.  To be a good steward of this life and mind (and family!) that God has given me.

I want to thrive not just survive

It's funny, because the scheduled activities that actually make this a busy month aren't even the things that are causing stress.  Here is a snapshot of what's been going on this week (along with how I've also seen God's sustaining grace throughout):

Friday, June 10, 2016

Colossians 1

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold togetherI am not a theologian, but I am a Christ-follower.  My faith and my relationship with Christ are so important to me, which is probably why scrupulosity, or religious OCD, has been such a huge struggle for me.  OCD tends to affect those things in our lives that are most important to us.

I've continued in my relationship with God through the angst of OCD, but it has not always felt joyful.  So when I felt joy as I read Colossians 1 this afternoon, I wanted to share it with you!  See below for the passages that stood out to me along with why I enjoyed them.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Negative Authenticity

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouthsAuthentic honesty with others is so important.  God created us for relationship with Himself and grace and healing happen when we share honestly in community.  God is honored through our authenticity.

There is a way, however, in which authenticity can be twisted to not honor God.  When our motives are bad, for instance.  Gossiping, even if it's true.  Sharing in order to boost our pride or gather pity through being negatively authentic.  This last reason, I think, is the one that I've been struggling with recently in the way I talk about my kids.

Being a parent is without a doubt the hardest job I've ever had.  (For one reason this is true, click here.)  Never in my life have I consistently seen the height of my selfishness or my need for humility.  I've learned what it truly means to be a servant leader, even though I fail at this on a very consistent basis.  I've been forced to simplify the way I verbalize my beliefs so that a toddler can understand (still working on this, too).  It's not bad to talk about how hard parenting is, but a few things have happened lately that highlight what has become my habit of negative authenticity.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Busyness, Stress, and Mental Health

I'm what you might call a task-driven person.  I love being with people, too, but I also love getting things done, experiencing accomplishment, crossing items off the list.  The tasks are good, even, but they can become a problem when I become too busy.  Because (for me) busyness leads to stress, and stress leads to increased anxiety and OCD.

to do list: so many things - avoiding stress while busy

NOTE: Many people can handle commitments and busyness that I cannot.  I used to be one of those people, then I had my third kid.  She totally changed things.

This week was extra busy, so I shouldn't have been surprised when yesterday afternoon was filled with high anxiety.  Or when scrupulosity trigger thoughts bombarded me this morning.  

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Patience: I am not a natural

planting the rain garden for homeschoolingThe rain garden is planted!  Now if I can just manage to keep it alive long enough for the plants to get established in the soil, I think we'll be good to go.  It looks pretty, but we'll see if things actually begin to grow.

I'm not great at waiting for things to happen.  I want the flowers to bloom and the birds and butterflies to come now, but that isn't really how it works.

This is very much the way I would like to be healed from mental illness.  Just do it, cross it off the list, and move on.  But healing takes time, and it doesn't always look the way that I want it to.

       I want to be completely over OCD.

              To never perform another compulsion.

                     To dismiss the trigger thoughts immediately.

                            To live in total peace, not anxiety -  forgiveness, not fear.

But this is a journey, and one that will probably not be completed until I am in heaven.

Do you find yourself also wanting things to be done now?  How do you practice patience?