Choosing Courage

Some of you might have noticed back in early fall I was working really hard to share blog posts at least once if not twice a week… then they stopped. I managed to get out our family Christmas letter and that’s about it. I didn’t post my usual new year’s resolutions. I didn’t post much of any thing.

This was for two very specific reasons. The first from hurting and the second from healing. I am finally at a place to share where I’ve been and where I’m going. This post has been a long time coming and I will be working hard to not make it a rambling mess, but please bear with me…This is not a sympathy post. This is not meant to make anyone feel anything except hope and acceptance. Mental health is a very real issue in our world and by talking about it, sharing our stories, we help to remove the stigma. We help others to better understand and share empathy. We learn to better care for one another.

I have struggled with depression since my teens. I have gone through several very low times, it’s a disease that often cycles. Check out THIS POST to read some of my history. In the spring of last year, another cycle started for me. I knew what was happening, I’ve been there many times before. However, my life was so different this time. The coping skills I had learned a decade ago were no longer working. I couldn’t get myself to “snap out of it.” I changed some things in my life, I focused more time and attention on self-care. I started seeing a therapist. I was going through the steps, but it wasn’t enough. In December of 2018, I hit a low that I haven’t felt in many years. I was ready to end my life. I was ready to let go of the deep hurt and quiet all the voices. I had so much to live for and wasn’t able to get out of the storm inside me.

I knew that I needed more help. Suicide was not the answer, it couldn’t be the answer. My family needed me. My husband needed me. My babies needed me. I did not want to die. But I could not continue to live in this place. I am so deeply blessed to have a support system that is vocal in their desire to care for me. I have people I can turn to who do not judge, do not shame. I reached out. I was honest and true. I shared my worries, my negative thoughts. And I received help.

My therapist suggested an intensive outpatient program. A middle level, between weekly therapy and hospitalization. I chose to participate in the “Partial Hospitalization Program” through Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I name it so that others can reference this program if and when needed. This was a two week, five days a week, program that went for about 5-6 hours each day. It was multi-dimensional, using a variety of resources, therapies and programs to care for their patients. Sessions including psychotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition, leisure, symptom assessment with a registered nurse, regular visits with a nurse practitioner and psychiatrist, relaxation, coping skills and more. When I attended the consultation appointment I was incredibly skeptical. How would all these crazy sessions, in just ten days, make any difference at all. I wanted to end my life. What could they say that I haven’t heard before. What could they do that would change anything?

I am very pleased to say, I was wrong. I’m not completely cured, but I’m well on my way. I gained insight and skills that have changed my life and will continue to change me in the most positive ways. It has made a huge difference.Picture_20190213_105241909.jpg

While I simply don’t have enough words or time to share everything I learned, I will share the big takeaways.

Several times throughout the sessions I caught myself saying, “well, duh!” Meaning that it seemed so simple. However, its much easier said then done! Here’s my interpretation of what I have taken to heart and how I am using the knowledge gained to change my life:

  1. We have an emotional set, there are no new emotions coming. We have felt all the feelings. They may effect us in new way, but there aren’t new feelings. We know what they are, therefore we can plan for how we will deal with them.
  2. All the things in my life that have led me to this place, to this moment, are now excuses. Whether they are true and factual or something I made up in my head, I cannot let them hold me down or keep me feeling this way. Society, experience, genetics, heredity. They are “things” I’m holding on to in an effort to validate this emotional state. All external events are neutral. They do not have meaning.
  3. All of my negative emotions can be traced back to FEAR. I am afraid of something, and that is what triggers those emotions and thoughts. My fears run through my head like a “hamster on a wheel,” unable to stop. By pinpointing my fears, I have been able to face them with a new courage, bravery and power.
  4. I have three thought processes living within me; the child, the adult and the parent. I have allowed the child to stay in power for far too long. This little girl is irrational, emotional, and reactive. The child is out of control. However, when I CHOOSE to use my adult brain, I am able to feel the emotion then respond in a rational and controlled way, choosing how I will let that emotion effect me. I will always have feelings. Feelings and emotions are good. But when I allow the child to spiral them out of control, I lose. When I face each emotion, without fear and with intention, I am able to progress. The parent in me congratulates and reinforces my adult self, caring for and nurturing the positive choices I have made.  Most people spend little time influencing their state. We must put in the work to achieve the results.
  5. I must maintain a mindset of POSITIVITY PURIST. I cannot allow ANY negative thoughts to fester. Example, I will no longer have a “bad day.” The entire day could not have been bad. I might have had some moments when my emotions got out of control and I didn’t like the outcome. But those were moments. They pass and I learn from them. Each time I allow myself to choose positive thoughts, I get a little strong and form better habits. The way you think affects the way you feel.

Again, these things seem so simple, but are truly much harder to accomplish. I have conditioned myself to fall into patterns of feeling failure, guilt, disappointment, frustration, stress, exhaustion, overwhelm and a constant state of “but” (as in, I’m a good mom BUT… insert negative thought here!) I am working to erase ALL of these words from my vocabulary. Through each experience, each new day, each life happening, I am working to give myself forgiveness and grace. I remind myself that there is no such thing as perfect and I’m doing just fine. I am a good mother, wife, friend, daughter, employee and woman. I don’t need to do all the things, just the things that are right for me.

I am working to develop and rediscover my passions and purpose in life (beyond my family of course). I want to focus on writing, building our farm, creating mental health awareness in my community. I have regained my sense of humanity. I will continue to put in the work to affect my mental state and maintain a position of power over myself. I will be cured of my depression. It will not be a term I use to describe or define myself. I will be healthy. I am strong. I am capable. I am courageous. I am everything I ever needed to be. This is me.

I’m happy to continue this conversation with anyone who might be needing it. Find me on facebook or email me. Let’s end the stigma together.

Happy Harvesting,

Leah

2 thoughts on “Choosing Courage

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  1. Oh Leah – how I wish I had the magic answer. It sounds like you are going in the right direction. Love to you and your family…

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