Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Podcast, My Journey

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was preparing to record a podcast for Power of Moms about what I had learned in counseling for an eating disorder.  I went through all of my notes from a year's worth of therapy and pulled out some of my major "take-aways" to share in a 45-minute presentation that I hoped could be helpful to anyone who is wanting to feel less stress and more joy.

It was so rewarding to do this.  It was a great refresher of what I'd learned in counseling, and there was so much that I myself needed to review and recommit to.

It was also a great reminder of how far I've come and how different my life is now than it was only three years ago.  Sometimes I feel like I have gotten no where in my relationship with food, myself, and my body, but looking back at my journaling from those years, it was very easy to see that I have indeed come a LONG way and changed so much for the better.  (Insert party hat and cheering hands emojis.  Does anyone else think in emojis now?)

I was so nervous to record the podcast, and after it was done, I second guessed everything that I had said and felt a little sick inside (hello, sharing some of the most intimate and private revelations and experiences of your life)--but I was so pleasantly surprised with how it turned out when it aired on the Power of Moms website and I listened to it for the first time.  Of course it is not perfect, and there are moments that I wish I could re-record and say differently, but overall, I feel like it is a good recap of a lot of really important insights and strategies that I have learned through my eating disorder journey.  I feel like it could be helpful to people, whether or not they have struggled with body image demons, and that feels so good.  It feels amazing to share the tools that have made an immense difference in my life.

So if you are interested in learning how to stop the cycle of negative self-talk in your life and change your habits without resorting to guilt or self-loathing as a motivator, listen to my podcast! You can listen from a computer or from your phone--it's super easy, just a click and then listen away while you fold laundry, do dishes, or drive to work.

Here's a link to the podcast, with lots of resource links at the bottom: Unhealthy Stress or Habits? Break the Cycle!

And here's a link to the narrative therapy that I mention in the podcast (and that I initially published here, with much trepidation.  Can you believe that I got the courage to share it on a national website??  Proof right there that counseling can change you, LOL!): The Surprising Way I Confronted My Eating Disorder

Thank you all for sharing my journey with me.  It's not even close to over, but I am making progress.   I am thinking about doing a series about "intuitive eating" on this blog this year--focusing on one of the ten principles of intuitive eating each week, sharing my experiences with that principle and offering a "challenge" to live that principle in daily life that week.  ("Intuitive eating" is the philosophy that my counselor taught me for developing a healthy relationship with food.  It's based on a book, but it is so much more than that.)

What do you think?  Would this interest anyone out there?  I need to review all of these principles myself because it is one thing to know them intellectually and a different thing entirely to actually live them.  I need to work on the living them part, and I would love to have some company and support as I continue on this adventure.  Let me know if you're in!

Now go listen to the podcast if you want less stress in your life!  And who doesn't want that?


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Let's talk about mental illness, shall we?

How’s that for a blog post title?  But seriously, this subject has been on my mind for a while now, and I have some stuff I want to say about it.

I have been on an antidepressant since Baby Sally was born six months ago, and it has helped me a lot.  I have always had what I call a “melancholy” disposition.  I'm not naturally a downer or anything--I actually think I'm naturally optimistic and grateful--but I’m a deep thinker and sometimes life with all of its complexity really troubles me.  I’ve had bouts of deep discouragement over the years, and heaven knows my worrywart nature has sometimes bordered on anxiety.  But I’ve never been on medication before now, and I’ve always been able to manage.

That changed after Sally was born. As my hormones were leveling out, I had crazy physical symptoms, such as chills, uncontrollable shaking, nausea, vomiting, and night sweats.  I had major insomnia, so even when the baby was sleeping, I couldn’t.  I felt afraid to go to bed at night because I knew that I would just lay there and ruminate and my thoughts would go to crazy places, and I would say to myself over and over, “You need to sleep, you need to sleep, you need to sleep…” which would make anxiety take over.

Most troubling was my overwhelming, irrational fear that I wouldn’t be able to take care of my children.  I cried all the way to the hospital when Ryan and I went for an appointment with a lactation consultant.  I didn’t know quite why I was crying, but whenever I looked at the baby, I felt a surge of inadequacy that bordered on panic, and I just couldn’t hold back the tears.  Feeling so out of sorts left me wondering, “Am I ever going to be myself again?  What if I get serious depression and can’t care for my children?  What if my personality changes and I’m never the same?”

The kicker was when I had a full-blown, world-closing-in panic attack one afternoon while I was trying to take a nap.  We are talking heart racing, deep breathing, pacing around the room, sweating bullets, fearing that I was going to die in that moment.  It was one of the scariest things I have ever felt. After the panic attack, I called the doctor and asked to be put on an anti-anxiety medication. 

The doctor put me on a low dose of Zoloft, and it has made a huge difference for me.  I feel like I am the best, truest version of myself now.  I am more patient, happier, and less of an irrational worrier.  I still have hard days on occasion, of course, but it’s not like it was before.  I actually think I probably should have been on medication long before the baby was born, but it took a major event and a major breakdown for me to see what has maybe been clear to the people closest to me for a while.

Will I stay on this antidepressant forever?  I hope not.  I’d prefer not to be on any medication forever.  But if I had a thyroid problem, I would take my thyroid medication without feeling weak or guilty.  So if I have to take an antidepressant forever, it will be hard for me, but I will continually remind myself that it’s okay—that mental illness is just an illness like any other, and there is no shame in that.  And of course, I will continue to try to do all of the other things that help: getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, having outlets and hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

I have several friends who suffered with depression for months, even years, before talking to their doctors because they felt weak and ashamed and didn’t know if their symptoms were “bad enough” to merit asking for help.  That just breaks my heart, and I'm grateful that I got help quickly, before things got too debilitating.  It helped to think about other women whom I love and respect who have taken medication for anxiety and depression--it made it feel “okay” somehow, and it gave me hope.

I think there's a misconception that anyone who has a mental illness (such a scary term, isn't it, but I'm not sure why--it really is just illness that requires treatment and sometimes medication, like any other) is really crazy or not normal--and no one wants to be labeled that way.

So, if you are struggling emotionally right now, or if sometime in the future you find that you are, maybe it will help you to know that I have been on an antidepressant and it was helpful.  I also wanted to put this out there in case anyone ever needs to talk to someone who has been there or wants advice about whether to seek support from a doctor or a counselor.  You can always talk to me about anything—truly.

I recently read a blog post written by a woman who struggles with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since surviving the earthquake in Haiti five years ago.  Though I have never lived through an earthquake, I related to so much of what she shared about her experience with anxiety, and it also reminded me of my experience with physical trials and illnesses, such as my very hard pregnancy.  (The more that I live, the more that I realize that though the trials of life vary from person to person, so many of the feelings we experience during those trials are similar and unify us, if we allow them to.)

This is a portion of the blog post that really stood out to me:

“I have an irrational and driving need to appear capable and stoic.  Sure, I mock my foibles in the little things from time to time, but in general I go to great lengths to avoid seeming flustered.  I am like a duck who is gliding across the water, appearing graceful and effortless, all the while with two feet just under the surface, desperately paddling in circles to stay afloat…

DON’T LET ON THAT YOU ARE A MESS.  Keep the anxiety under the surface.

I continue in my charade because a) I am in a good bit of denial myself, and b) people don’t like a mess.  Not for any length of time, anyways.  There is a statute of limitation for what is acceptable for grief.  My succession of miscarriages taught me this painful fact. One or two miscarriages? People are there for you. By five or six? People are uncomfortable. People stop calling. And you start to get the sinking feeling that people see you as a lot of work…

It was too exhausting to explain myself to others . . . too tedious to continually remind people that I’m still compromised.

‘How are you?’

When the answer to that question continues to be negative . . . when people seem disappointed and irritated when it remains stagnant. . . it gets easier to lie.  Or to avoid situations where I’m asked. Because the only fear I have greater than seeming like a mess?  Seeming like a burden.”

Oh have I been there.  Wanting to be capable and stoic.  Fearing that people will find out that I’m a mess.  Not wanting to be a burden.  Fearing that I will be seen as “too much work” in a relationship if I really let on to how desperate I’m feeling. 

So I want to end this post by saying this to my friends who struggle with anything in life, physical or mental:

I get it. 
And I believe you.
And you will never be too much work.  Ever.

I am imperfect and hurting too—so let’s just talk about it.

 A few favorite resources on depression/anxiety and mental health:

"Like A Broken Vessel" by Jeffery R. Holland
"Upon the Top of the Waters," Ensign Oct. 2014

         ^I recorded this podcast for Power of Moms about what I learned in counseling 

Helping a spouse or loved one who is facing depression

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Skiing, Sledding, and Sky Lanterns

We spent the week before New Year's at Ryan's grandpa's cabin in Sun Valley.  We love it.  We have so many wonderful memories there, and it just keeps getting better and better as our family grows.

We enjoyed many of the old favorite pasttimes, such as skiing (Noah got on the hill again this year and loves it), tubing, and hot tubbing ...

Since Noah is the only kid who can ski at this point, we also found some new favorite pasttimes as a family, a favorite of which is just walking on the beautiful, wintery paths pulling the kiddos in sleds...
Sally was totally content to just lay in a sled, and she even fell asleep in there one day.  I truly cannot get over how good-natured this baby is.

We also started some new traditions, such as the moms doing crafts at the cabin while the boys skied (yes, crafts! and I even enjoyed it a little).

We had a really fun New Year's Eve featuring homemade ice cream, a raucous round of "toasts" with sparkling cider, confetti poppers, a reflective activity about the year that has passed and the year to come...and, as the grand finale, a release of sky lanterns into the night sky!

A while ago, I bought a random Groupon for sky lanterns because I think they are so romantic.  I was hoping to use them on Christmas Eve along with a devotional about how Christ is the light of the world, but it was too windy in Pocatello, and we decided we preferred not to burn down a neighbor's house, so we saved them for the cabin.  It was a pretty cool way to bring in the New Year.  It may become a tradition.

It was just such a fun week, as it always is when we are with the Nielsons.  We love Ryan's siblings and their families so much, and we are very grateful to Grandpa Art for building the cabin so many years ago to provide his posterity a place to gather and to grow closer together.  It has certainly brought us years of amazing memories.

The whole clan!  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Holly Jolly

We spent a fantastic week with the Nielsons for Christmas!  We started the week in Pocatello for Christmas Eve and Christmas and then we headed to their cabin in Sun Valley for a few days afterward (more on Sun Valley in another post--I'm trying to break up the overload of photos!).

Highlights of Christmas week included:

-Visiting Santa at the Pocatello mall.  I must say, my kids were thoroughly unimpressed--which kind of made the photo all the more awesome.

And can we please take a moment to flashback to this insane cuteness from two years ago?  (Still the worst mall Santa I've ever seen.  That beard.)

-Christmas Eve, all dressed up in our finest for Grandma's amazing feast.

Little Sally Lou Who
(Outrageous outfit is compliment of Aunt Sarah, of course)
Dapper Dude in front of the tree
Lily and Kate in their Christmas tutus...cutest ever
And speaking of cutest ever: Noah and Great Grandpa Nip are twinners!
-A magical Christmas morning, which included a jolly elf in polka-dot pajamas, amazing presents from Santa, and several inches of fresh white snow!  The best!

Cutest elf
His first look at what Santa brought him. :)
-Trains, trains, trains!  Noah is beyond obsessed with trains, and he was spoiled this Christmas with not one but two train sets!  He got a wooden one from Bapa and an electric one from Santa.  Could a boy be luckier?  We set up his wooden train on the table and his electric train under the table, so it was truly Grand Central Station in the living room.  He played with the trains from morning until night, actually wearing out a set of brand new batteries in one day.  Happiest, luckiest boy.

It occurred to me as I watched him playing so happily that most children in the world never even get one toy so nice.  It made me feel a little sad--and also grateful and determined to give more and to do more for others. We are blessed beyond measure, and I hope that we can teach Noah to be generous throughout his life.


-Baby's first Christmas.  We were blessed this Christmas to have a true angel in our midst.  Sister Sally is one-of-a-kind and brings us all so much joy.  If she catches your eye, she will grin, as is evidenced by these photos that my brother-in-law snapped while we were opening presents.

First she catches his eye...
Then rewards him with that mega-watt smile!
Sal was spoiled with a a killer-cute bunny from Grandma and a Sophie giraffe and some teether/rattles from Bapa (among other things).  Lucky baby.

She had so much fun snuggling with her aunts and cousins throughout the day.  I can't speak for her, but I'd say she had a pretty perfect First Christmas.

One of her two beautiful Aunt Sara's (this one spells her name without an h)
Sally and Lucy...six week apart in age and already besties...the most darling besties in town!
-And speaking of did we have fun with them!  Six children ages three and under were running around the house.  It was a tad crazy, but oh-so-fun!

Sweet Tate in an uncharacteristic calm moment (he's a mover and a climber)
Smiley Lily by the tree
Beautiful Lucy
 And she is just as sweet as she is pretty!
Cutest Kate--love her.
And this is what it's like to try to get a photo of all six of the kiddos together:

This is going well.
Poor Tate.
And what is Noah looking at?
Love how Gordon is laughing
Yeah this isn't chaotic or anything.
These were the best group photos we could manage throughout the week.  Pretty beautiful kids, I must admit.

They may not all be looking at the camera, but, hey, no one is crying.
All ready for church
It was a perfect Christmas with so many people whom we love so much.  Does it get any better?  Thank you for hosting us for a wonderful holiday, Grandma and Grandpa!  We love you!