When I was diagnosed with PTSD and a non hereditary exaggerated startle response I almost laughed, I had never even considered that other traumatic events in my life could lead to post traumatic stress disorder. My response was, “I was never in the military, so that can’t be right.” I was not educated enough to know that more people than just those who have served in the military can have PTSD.
My triggers may look different than yours because my traumatic experiences may be different. But loud sudden noises are a big trigger for me. A big sudden noise elicits an unpleasant response within me. I jump, my heart jumps, and need to take a minute to catch my breath. Dog barking is an immediate intense trigger when continuous elicits aggravation within me. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why. But continuous dog barking makes my skin burn and my insides are shrieking in panic.
Being touched is also a huge trigger for me. I don’t exactly know why but I get that feeling of panic and my skin burning. I feel fear and am instantly looking for an escape from the situation.
However, through dealing with this PTSD for the past 4 years I have been able to help others work through their PTSD triggers and talk with them about their mental health. So it’s been a good and bad thing. I enjoy the ability to help others with this and grow closer to the Lord together.
All we can do is find peace in our lives, find reasons to move past this, get help for our mental help, and rely on the Lord.
Oh the pit of mental disorders. Mental illnesses are nasty conniving liars. They tell you that everyone is out to get you, that the worst thing that could (or even couldn’t) possibly happen is bound to happen, they tell you that you are worthless, your life has no meaning, no worth, and no purpose, and no one likes you. They keep you up at night and they make you sleep too much. There is no in between. They give you unavoidable tendencies that make life a living nightmare. You establish unhealthy coping mechanisms just to get through the day because of them. They remind you of everything you’ve ever said or done that you aren’t too happy with yourself over. They tell you that you will never amount to anything. They tell you not to bother. Just sit this one out. Sit it all out. It isn’t even worth trying so why bother?
Mental disorders are best friends. When you have multiple diagnoses they are working together against you. Anxiety disorders are a constant hair raising whisper and a deafening scream all at once. Depression disorders keep you in the place that anxiety disorders tell you not to move from. Anxiety disorders tell you to not leave your bed because all of the worst case scenarios that play over and over in your head will happen if you step foot onto your bedroom floor and depression will keep you there. OCD and PTSD will refuse to give up the fight to let you live a normal life. One minor thing could happen to set off your PTSD and your entire day is ruined. You wanted a normal day? Well too bad. You aren’t going to get one.
There are so many of these binding and crippling mental illnesses that litter society and are never talked about. Suicide is mourned, yet depression is silenced. And when these life destroying disorders are left not talked about and untreated they can lead to a pit filled with darkness and despair with no hope of escaping. They can lead to self destruction and destruction of everything you love in your life. They can lead to lives taken too soon. Mental illnesses should not be silenced. They should not be kept in the dark. They should not be hidden. They should be treated. The thing with mental illness is you need to constantly work on it. It’s not one of those things you can ignore and hope it goes away. Ignorance leads to growth which leads to a less hopeful process of healing and treatment.
Do not be dismayed, do not rest in the feeling of defeat and loneliness because there is hope for us. There is bountiful overflowing amount of hope for everyone who suffers from a mental illness. Over the next four weeks I am going to focus on mental health and finding ways to stick to treatment instead of running and hiding from it. We are only as strong as we think we are. And with the right team and treatment plan we can all find a life filled with genuine happiness, fantastic mental health, and hope. Let’s get out of this pit.
Anyone who has depression understands the disconnect from responsibility that happens far too often. During these lows you neglect tasks that need to be done because you can’t even begin to think about getting out of bed or doing anything that might require a thought process. There is a total shut down that happens. And I encourage that behavior. I despise it. But I allow it. I enable it for as long as I need to. But I am so done with that mindset. I’m furious with myself for becoming this person who gives in to their mental illness. I live my life in a constant state of anxiety, denial, and disconnect. And I’m done.
Important mail piles up, piles pile up, laundry doesn’t get done, my floor becomes a pathway of items instead of a floor. The house can be completely clean and dishes need to be done…but I can’t function enough to keep my own room organized. My room becomes a direct product of my depression.
I’m breaking up with my depression. I’m breaking up with avoiding my psychiatrist. I’m breaking up with the inability to keep my life together. This week is the beginning of the new me. I am NOT my depression. I am NOT my anxiety. Or my PTSD. I am Kait. I am a daughter of God. I am a fully capable woman who can handle life without giving in to my diagnosis. Not only handle life but dominate it. And not because I am strong. Not because I am able. I’m not. I am fully aware of my own shortcomings, trust me. But I can do all things through God who gives me strength.
I will start my day talking with the Lord, and continue my day talking with Him. I will get ahead of this illness. I will take my meds. I will meet with my psych on a regular basis. I will not give in to the behaviors of my illnesses. I refuse to be that person. It is not who I am.
I thrive in the demanding daily craziness and the distractions of my normal. My normal consists of working a demanding job, serving in student ministry and children’s ministry at my church, working one on one mentoring three young women, and running a young women’s ministry Bible study….oh and I am also in a very committed relationship to my amazing boyfriend who also works a demanding job and is in school full time.
I love my normal. It means I don’t need to think. I don’t have time to think. I don’t have time to sit down or eat or breathe. It’s a constant go go go.
This normal I claim to love so much and that I desperately cling to is not healthy. It isn’t healthy and it isn’t sustainable. In this normal I am stressed 24/7. I am relying on myself and not the Lord. And I’m never alone with myself. Working with my psych with my PTSD, anxiety, and myriad of other things I began to realize that I pack my schedule with these mentally and physically demanding tasks so I don’t have to feel. I don’t ever have to be alone with my feelings if I have a constant rotating door of distractions.
Five weeks ago I was laid off and since then I’ve been intentionally trying to begin healthy habits for my mental health. I haven’t been as successful as I would like to be, but I’m trying. I’m trying to be alone with myself. I am trying to cling to the Lord in the midst of a panic attack or the pit of depression. And even though I haven’t been 100% successful in my attempts, I’m just so glad I have begun this new journey of not drowning in distractions.
I have held it together for so long I forget what it means to not put on a façade. I hold it together until my breathing is shallow and quick and the walls close in around me and I’m on the floor in a panic attack. I hold it together so the outside world doesn’t know that inside I’m a ball of crippling anxiety and depression.
Holding it together isn’t what God is asking of me. He isn’t asking for perfection. He is asking for surrender.
I’ve been drowning for years in a state of constant struggle for perfection. Hiding what is really going on because no one can know that every aspect of my life isn’t held together and everything isn’t perfectly in it’s place. And I’m going to die as completely tense and panic filled as I lived if I do not learn to surrender my thoughts, my actions, my way of living, my everything…to the Lord.
I don’t want to die in these waters.
I’m ready to surrender.
Wow did we pack so much fun into this day. My first day back at work has been what I expected it to be – moments of relearning and patience, but also moments of incredible joy and the best snuggles in the whole wide world. My goodness does this little girl know how to give the best hugs imaginable. I am so blessed with this kiddo, she is just the sweetest little sidekick.
What you can’t see is the astronomical amount of toys littered around the house. It looks like the Melissa & Doug factory exploded. The sticky surfaces, the strawberry cream cheese smeared on her table…and the dog. It’s chaos. This is such a huge win. I’ve been retraining my OCD tendencies to be more people and relationally focused. I won’t lie, I fail at this most days. I tend to get caught in the details, in the things that don’t necessarily matter, in the technical side, the matter of fact-ness. Especially when it comes to my job – which yes, when it comes to a medical emergency, giving medication, or logging data – I need those OCD tendencies, I need the detailed and technical side of myself. But when it comes to having a chill day where we can play with the new toys she got for Christmas – I need to put those natural tendencies in the back of my mind. I need to be present and fun and energetic and let loose. That’s something I have always struggled with. Letting loose. I’m a very uptight person. In the Mary & Martha story…I tend to lean more towards being a Martha.
So as I am learning to slow down and enjoy the present with the people I am around and not be focused on five million other things…I need to be praying for patience with myself as I work on this. My psychiatrist says I have OCD tendencies but just like my diagnoses I do not need to be defined by them. I’m not the nicest person when it comes to my flaws and I need to allow grace for days where I fail to be relationally focused.
Day 15 of my medication change. It is the first day that has been without an intense sobbing hyperventilating mental breakdown. My brain hasn’t been spinning with morbid thoughts of immediate doom and despair. It’s been a good day. A very good day. A genuinely happy day filled with joy and rational thoughts and laughter.
The past 14 days were probably the deepest depression I have ever been in. To say I was not handling it well at all would be an understatement. The inability to leave my bed, not cry, or breathe normally was overpowering. I was not functioning and I was unable to cope or self regulate at all when I was alone.
My already amazing ability to filter my thoughts before they leave my mouth was completely gone. I wasn’t turning to God when the panic attacks were inevitably about to start and I wasn’t turning to God when I couldn’t summon the strength to get out of bed. I was just trying to survive. I wasn’t even able to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel.
Hopefully this is over. Hopefully the chemistry in my brain is done messing around, but that’s probably not the case. I still have 2 months until I titrate up to the amount my psychiatrist wants me on for my meds. I’m hoping that if I do go back into a deep depression I at least know to cry out to God and continue to worship Him despite the nightmare going on in my head. My hope is to rely on the Lord.
I am enjoying this breakthrough. It is now day 16, and so far so good 🙂 I’m so beyond grateful to my boyfriend, friends, and family for their overwhelming love and support and distractions. They mean the world to me.
I fail daily at alone time and spending time with God. I try to fill up every second of my day with something. Work, serving at church, talking on the phone whenever I’m alone, time with friends, video games, youtube…anything to keep me from being alone with my thoughts. I don’t intentionally take that alone time seriously until I am at my breaking point and can barely function.
That is when I escape to the lake for at least half an hour of just silence and staring out at the water. Usually, if I am at the lake it means things are going pretty terribly. I can’t stand being alone with myself, my depression is worsening, and I am allowing my anxiety to control my life. I shouldn’t let it get to the point where I’m not functioning.
My mom wakes up early every morning and has her intentional coffee time with God. She has been doing this every morning for as long as I can remember. It sets the tone for her day and her interactions with everyone around her. She quietly has her coffee, reads her Bible, journals, and talks to God. I’m not saying I am going to start doing that, because I also need as much sleep as I can get for my own mental health…but I need to change how I spend every second of my day. I need to be setting the tone for my day in a healthy way that benefits myself and my relationship with the Lord.
Even Jesus took time away from people to pray. I need to start being more like Jesus.
Trigger Warning: Suicide
The shame I hold onto about this part of my testimony is heavy and covered in guilt. But the more I celebrate my life, the more I want to open up about this so that hopefully God can use my ashes for His beautiful purpose.
Here I sit at Lake Nockamixon, it’s 32 degrees and extremely windy, but the sun is shining on my tear soaked face, the seagulls are singing, and Rescue by Lauren Daigle is playing in my ears.
When I was 20 I tried to kill myself.
I wanted to end it. End everything. End the pain and the depression and the anxiety. End the frustration. End the never ending struggle. But more than that I would have ended moments like this one. Sunshine on my face looking out over the lake. I would have ended coffee dates with my mom. I would have ended heart to heart talks with my dad. I would have never seen my brother graduate college as valedictorian. I never would have poured into my youth kids who mean the absolute world to me. I would have ended the possibility of ever meeting Josh and beginning this immaculately designed chapter of my life. I would have ended any possibility of the Lord using me for His purpose. In the blink of an eye I would have ended every single thing that I hold so valuable.
I was desperate and numb and in searing pain all at once and I thought my only option was to kill myself. I thought the only option was to give up. To give up ever having a future. As I write this I vividly remember the amount of emotional and physical and spiritual pain I was in. I remember throwing myself on my bedroom floor shaking uncontrollably, sobbing and screaming for God to take the pain away, take away the pain from my disease, take away my depression and anxiety. I was shrieking. I was done. I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t imagine continuing to live one more second.
I am grateful for the nurses and doctors that took care of me at the hospital that night and the next day. I am grateful for the security guard that was posted at my door and didn’t take his eyes off me. I am grateful to the nurse filled with compassion and warmth who didn’t treat me like an insane person, she kept me company and brought me heated blankets, I don’t remember her name but I am grateful to her for treating me like a person. I am grateful for the support from my coordinator and therapists. I am grateful to my mom who never ceased praying, never ceased crying out to God, even in the midst of her agony, and the fear of losing me. She never ceased praying. She was my rock when I couldn’t stand on my own. She fought for me when I couldn’t care less.
Suicide doesn’t just end the bad stuff, it doesn’t just end the pain. In fact it causes pain, intense unmeasurable amounts of pain. Suicide ends all of the good things and any good thing that’s to come. It ends more than just a life. Praise the Lord I am alive. I am experiencing what it means to actually be alive. I will not let my depression and anxiety win. This will not steal my joy. I refuse to fall victim to my mental illness.
I have way too much to live for.
Depression sucks. Depression and anxiety really sucks. It’s easy for me to go days without showering and without having the energy to get out of bed. The anxiety is screaming rage at me that my whole world is going to implode while I’m going through my depressive periods.
There are days where getting out of bed is my proudest achievement. And then there are days I wake up early, run a few miles, eat clean, clean my room, do laundry, walk the dog, shower, get errands done, and excel at work.
There’s really no in between. So I live for the days where I’m productive and driven. They’re not as exhausting as the ones where I can’t move and my brain is screaming with anxiety because I haven’t moved.