Coming out of the depths

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog, and a lot has changed. First off, I want to thank everyone who read my blog post, and who reached out with a comment or message. It really meant a lot.
I’m still struggling a bit, and probably always will, but I have been able to start to turn it around. Writing that post, was the turning point. It was a way of holding myself accountable and not letting myself sink back into the darkness – now that it was out there, I couldn’t just do that.
One of the biggest things I’ve realized since hitting ‘Publish’, is that I need to take things slow and go easier on myself. I have always lived at opposite ends of the spectrum – I’m either super high-strung, full of energy and doing things at a million miles an hour, or, I’m a bump on the couch, barely able to have a shower. Realizing this and keeping it in the forefront of my mind, has been instrumental in helping me stay afloat above the depths of depression. I’m working hard to be in balance – somewhere right in the middle of that spectrum.
I mentioned in my last post about having lists of things that I wanted to get done each day. I’ve realized, that while lists can be helpful, the way I thought about them was detrimental to my mental health. I would write lists of everything that I wanted to get done, and if I didn’t accomplish those things, I would feel overwhelmed and awful, like a failure and like a disappointment. That would start the downward spiral into negative thinking. Somehow, I felt that if I wasn’t running at 100 miles per hour, kicking ass and taking names, that I was useless.
Since recognizing this pattern, I’ve been able to slowly work on changing that thinking. Recognizing it for what it was, was the first step. I still make lists, however, I’m working on changing how much weight I put onto the importance of knocking every single thing off those lists. I spent the entire first week after my last blog post, just painting. I painted three large canvases, a smaller one and a few small watercolors. And I did them because I wanted to and felt inspired to do them, not because they were on one of my to-do lists. What a difference. The whole experience of creating them even changed for me. It was very eye-opening and gave me a whole new appreciation for creating.

Hawaii commission
I think the Depression and Anxiety was able to start taking a hold of me again because I was stressing myself out. I was putting so much pressure on myself and started to feel like I did when I was working in a corporate environment that had outrageous expectations of what individuals should be accomplishing in a day. That familiar feeling was coming back and it was awful. Once I let go of those expectations (by writing the blog post), it made such an immense difference.
Shifting one’s thinking is a huge task, and it is obviously still a work in progress, and I’m sure it will be for the rest of my life – staying aware that I don’t need to be super-human and get a ridiculous amount of things done in a day. Years of thinking and feeling this way won’t go away in a day, or a week, and will probably take years to reverse. I’m learning to listen more to my heart instead of my head and do what I FEEL needs to be done instead of what I THINK needs to be done, and I’m much happier for it.
I’m hoping to get a handle on it all, and to not be MIA from my site and blog, or social media for weeks at a time, but for the past few weeks, this is what I needed. I needed to slow down and do one thing at a time.  This self-publishing/ marketing/ blogging/ website/ social media journey that I’ve embarked on is all brand new to me and a huge learning experience.  I’ve GOT to cut myself some slack for that.  (After all, I’m no spring chicken anymore either, and learning new things isn’t quite as easy as it used to be!)  I have things that I want to get done, but I’m learning that when I start to feel overwhelmed, I need to take a step back and reevaluate where I’m at.
I also have to add that I do still waver every once in a while about publishing that post, and about it being ‘out there’ – it was a pretty heavy topic, and here I am, trying to promote a children’s book. Every once in a while, a thought about “What will ‘someone’ think if they’re looking at buying my book and they see that blog post? What if it turns them off buying it? What if they think ‘blah, blah, blah’…..” pops into my head. Then I realize that some people may not understand, and may wonder why I decided to post that on my website, but also, that probably for that one person, there may be 10 or 20 who are like “I get it” and who totally understand, because they’ve either been there themselves, or know someone else who has, and it’s those connections I’m hoping to make. There is no shame in mental illness, and we need to keep talking about it, even if it might make ‘some people’ uncomfortable. It’s too important not to talk about.
On a more positive note – I have some really great news to share – my book has been published and I’m just waiting for my proof copies to arrive (fingers crossed that will be this week!) As soon as I have a look at the physical copies, they will be available for purchase!

Teddy cover
Thanks again for reading, and for following along with me on this journey I’m on. Sending Love and Light to you all.

The Bad, The Worse, and The Ugly

I’m struggling. Struggling with my depression and anxiety.

I had been struggling for a really long time, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was, until I was diagnosed by my doctor almost two years ago. DING! A light bulb went off! I was relieved that I had a name to put to it, and that it wasn’t ‘just who I was’.

I was trying to manage it (as best I could, which in retrospect, wasn’t that well), but after a pretty traumatic, life-changing event, I fell even deeper. Deeper than I had ever been before. I felt like I lost everything. Like I was worthless. And I became very isolated. I shut everyone out. I was adamant that I didn’t want to go on medication, that I could do it myself. I tried everything under the sun – holistic treatments, natural remedies, therapy, self-care, exercise, nutrition…..etc. and after a year and a half of struggling really badly, and being as deep as ever in a ‘black hole’, I reluctantly went on medication. WOW! It was life changing! What a difference! I had energy, motivation, a vision for where I wanted to go, creativity…and most of all….I had FEELINGS! WHAT?! I know, crazy, right? I no longer felt numb and would no longer burst into tears at the slightest thought! (Please know I’m not trying to push meds on anyone. Everyone is different and we all need to figure out what works best for each of us. For me, this is what finally worked, though it may not be the answer for everyone who is struggling.)

For about 4 months, I was on a roll – I started the self-publishing process of my first children’s book (which I had actually written while in the depths of depression), started marketing it on social media, opened an Etsy shop for my artwork, started my website, written my first blog post and I was creating paintings and drawings like mad! I was full of energy and felt that I was knocking it out of the park everyday! I was EXCITED for where everything was going! I felt fantastic, better than I had since I can’t even remember when.

After about five months, things were going so well, that I decided to speak to my doctor about going off the meds. My husband and I are still (3 years later) trying for our second child, and the meds I was on are not compatible with pregnancy. I’m quickly climbing the hill to 40 (I’ll be there in April), and we have decided that we will call it quits if we are not expecting by my 40th, so the clock is ticking!

So, at the beginning of July, I started to wean myself off my meds, following my doctor’s instructions, and everything was going well. At the beginning of August, after a week or so of being completely off of them, I was still feeling great! Perfect!

Um, yeah. Not so much. Suddenly, everything went off the rails. Within a couple of days, I started to feel completely exhausted again, both mentally and physically. Because of that, my motivation was completely gone. I would make lists every morning of the things I really wanted to get done: write another blog post, update my website, edit, print, photograph and list some of my new artwork on my Etsy shop, make more art, start on my idea for my second book, post on social media, etc…..plus the regular, day to day stuff that had been so easy to tackle when I was feeling fantastic – clean the house, do a load of laundry, etc….but alas, those lists are still sitting on the counter, staring at me. (Don’t worry, with the help of my husband, the house is clean, and the laundry got done). Not being able to be productive and feel like I was accoplishing things, I really started to sink. I could literally feel myself slipping back down into a black hole. And it scared the crap out of me! Like almost overnight, I became irritable, irrational, and sad. Extremely sad. Beyond sad. Actually, sad isn’t even the right word for it, because it’s not a typical sadness like most people think. I think for me, it best described as becoming emotionless and hopeless.

So here we are – I’ve been especially struggling the last week or so. And my family is feeling it. And it sucks. My almost four year old asked me the other morning “Mommy, why are you mad? You look mad.” And here’s the thing – I was just making breakfast for him, I hadn’t even said anything. But he can see it in me. He can see it written all over my face. I wasn’t mad, but I guess my face must’ve been saying a lot more than I did. It absolutely broke my heart to hear him say this. It kills me that he can see that in me. I immediately did my best to get out of my own head and focus on him, and on not having ‘that look’ on my face. I had to be mindful of it all day, and everyday since, and it is exhausting.

It took everything in me today to get going, and even more to write this, but here it is. This is me in the raw. All of this is the reason I wrote the book Teddy the helpful ladybug. This is the reason I paint and draw and create. I have to remember that. It feels so good to do the things I love, but some days it’s just so much easier to sink into the couch and stare mindlessly at the television.

But guess what? I’m not going to let my depression and anxiety get the best of me this time. Last time, I wasted almost a year and a half in the solitary confinement of my own head. I would sit and let the thoughts get to me. I would let depression tell me I wasn’t good enough. I would let the anxiety make me feel so afraid that I was physically shaking. No more. I’ve decided that as of today, I’m telling my anxiety and depression to F*CK OFF! I’m not going to let it get the best of me anymore, or let it take any more of my precious days away from me. Now that I know how good it can feel to be mentally healthy, I want to get back there and I’m going to fight my hardest. I’m not giving up.
I’ve been really struggling with whether I should publically share this; I’m trying to do all these ‘great, happy, feel-good things’ and have been feeling pressured to keep an upbeat, positive persona on social media, and to portray that everything is all sunshine and rainbows. To pretend like everything comes from a bright, beautiful place; but that’s not the truth. Well, it’s not MY truth. It’s hard to share this when I’ve convinced myself that I can’t…afterall, I’m starting to promote a children’s book about love and kindness and being helpful. How does this fit that? I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter whether anyone else thinks it ‘fits into it’ or not. This is me, this is who I am, this is what I’ve been through…this is my truth. This is where all my creativity comes from.

I decided today that I’m fighting back. I’m putting myself out there. I’m going for it.

I decided today that I wanted to share this to be able to just stop hiding, and stop pretending that everything is perfect. I wanted to just be open and honest. I know what it’s like to think that you are all alone and to believe that no one understands or even cares, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that. You are not alone. There is help, whatever it may look like, and there are people that love you and will cheer you on. Even though most days it doesn’t seem like it, there are lots of ‘Teddy the helpful ladybug’s’ out there – those who want to love, help and encourage you. Those that want to lift you back up when you can’t do it yourself.

I’m also sharing this for myself. I wrote this so on the days I feel like sinking back into my black hole, I can come back here and read this. No more hiding, and trying to become invisible.

In the words of Levi Lusko, from today on, I’m going to “Run towards the Roar.” (Special thanks to the wonderfully inspiring Jessica Janzen Olstad for introducing me to this quote!)

I hope in the future to be sharing more ‘happy’ posts, but today is just not that day.

A little about how I got here…

Well, well, well…who would’ve thought?  I guess I now truly know the meaning to “you can do anything you put your mind to!”  As a child, I always fantasized about being an Author – throughout my teen years, I wrote poetry.  It was an escape for me, a way to deal with situations in my life – love, loss, heartache – but somewhere along the way (right around my early 20’s) I seem to have become distracted by ‘life’.  I was going to college, working, living on my own,  partying with my friends when I wanted to, exploring all the freedom that comes with ‘being an adult’, and somehow, as the years progressed, my creative spark just sort of faded away.  I stopped writing and I completely forgot how good it felt to just create!

Fast-forward a few (ok…maybe more like almost 20) years, and here I am – publishing my first children’s book, creating art, starting my own website (WHAT?!?) and really, just rediscovering who I AM as a person (not who I thought everyone else wanted or needed me to be), and you know what?  It feels AMAZING!  I’m not going to say it’s not scary, or intimidating, but it’s a different type of ‘scary’ – it’s more like exhilarating!  I’m learning to let go and just jump! I’m learning to say ‘YES’ way more often! I’m doing things that I wouldn’t have done even a year ago, and now I can’t believe I waited this long!

Looking back, I realize the funny thing is, the first thing that lead me to write all those years ago, was the same thing that lead me to pick up my notebook and pen and to write again – heartache. Though this time, it was of a different kind.  And this time, I (luckily) had a new perspective on pretty much everything.

After spending a day with a good friend (who is the kindest, sweetest, purest soul you could ever meet), I immediately came home and wrote ‘Teddy the helpful ladybug’.  It just flowed through my pen, like it used to before.  And I realize now, that was the start of my healing process.  There was a lot more involved in healing than simply writing the story, but it was definitely the catalyst that brought me to where I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hope that you all pick up a copy of Teddy the helpful ladybug when it’s released and that you enjoy sharing it with the little ones in your life.  I feel like we can all use a few more ‘Teddy’s’ in this world, and I hope this story can help us all to be a little more Teddy-ish!