Tag Archives: anxiety

Challenge Yourself and Reach New Peaks This Year!

Wearing my "Girls That Lift" shirt #GoBearOrGoHome

Wearing my “Girls That Lift” shirt #GoBearOrGoHome

I’m a 42-year-old mom of two kids (5 and 8 years old), and I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I was hospitalized during Christmas 2009 because the anti-depressant a psychiatrist prescribed made me suicidal. Thankfully, while in the hospital, I was put on a different anti-depressant, which works much better for me. It doesn’t make me feel happy, but it helps me think clearly enough to use the coping strategies I learned during 16 months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

I’m 5’2” and Chinese, which means I have low bone density. Before I got pregnant with my son in 2006, I weighed 113 lbs. After he was born, I got down to 109 lbs. Due to the stress of my daughter’s pregnancy in 2009, and then eating at Starbucks every day (sometimes two or even three times per day), I weighed 130 lbs. by the end of 2015. Diabetes runs in my family and eating poorly gives me bad mood swings, so I was very excited to discover the My Peak Challenge.

My Peak Challenge (MPC) was created by Scottish actor Sam Heughan, one of the lead actors of the Starz TV show Outlander. He created the MPC with his trainer John Valbonesi of Fight Camp, The Box Magazine, and Bear Strength Clothing Co. He wanted to encourage his fans to get in shape, eat healthy, and to support his favorite charity Bloodwise, the U.K.’s largest blood cancer charity.

People can donate directly or buy items from the sponsors. Fifty percent of the profits goes to Bloodwise.

  • Bear Clothing offers an MPC Supporter Pack (a T-shirt, signed photo of Sam, wristband, sticker, and badge)
  • There’s an MPC Prep Program that includes a 60-day training program with more than three hours of video footage of Sam demonstrating proper exercise techniques, a 60-day meal plan, access to a private Facebook group where participants share their challenges, successes, encouragement, and much more.

The Box Magazine featured Sam Heughan on their January/February issue

Here’s a great video of Sam explaining the My Peak Challenge.

While many people choose to eat healthfully and exercise, MPC 2016 is adaptable. Each person chooses what they would like to accomplish, whether it’s writing a book, meditating every day, or anything else that helps them get out of their comfort zone and see things in a new way.

Going hiking every weekend with my mom, hubby, and kids

Going hiking every weekend with my mom, hubby, and kids

I have a crazy long list of things I’d like to do for MPC 2016. I’m what my therapist called an “achievement junkie.” I’m just excited about pushing myself and seeing what I’m capable of.

Eating vegetarian plus eggs and fish
I’ve been vegetarian plus seafood before, but I stopped for about eight years. Since December 29th, I’ve been mostly vegetarian plus eggs and fish (salmon and canned sardines). I’ve decided to have meat for a few days before I donate blood (every eight weeks) and before my period. I really want to make sure I maintain a high enough iron level to donate blood.

Exercise every day
I get bored easily so I’m trying to have a lot of variety in my workouts: running on a treadmill, running on the road, hiking many different trails, weight lifting, and doing core exercises.

Run the Bay to Breakers
May is the official month of the challenge, so I will run the Bay to Breakers, a 12k from downtown San Francisco to the beach. I’m also thinking of running the San Jose Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon in October.

Overcome my dermatillomania
Dermatillomania is a disorder where a person compulsively picks at their skin. I’ve had it for years, basically as an unhealthy coping mechanism for my anxiety. Cutting out sugar (my vice is soy mochas, which apparently have 27g of sugar) should help considerably. I’ll also practice being mindful, noticing my emotions and my urge to pick at my skin. Observe the urge, then let it go.

Drive for Uber
I want to have many new experiences this year, so I signed up to be an Uber Partner. I’ve only driven for a couple of weeks. For me, it’s really more about providing a service than making money. I’m planning to drive on Super Bowl Sunday though, which should be pretty interesting. Uber will pay for cleaning your car should riders soil the interior.

Learn to ride a motorcycle
I’m going to take the CHP (California Highway Patrol) motorcyclist training class in February. I’m slowly trying to learn all the skills to become an action hero. Being 5’2”, you could call it “Little Woman Syndrome.”

Attend Comic-Con this year
My friend goes every year, and I’ve always wanted to join her, so this year, I’m going to leave my poor husband with our two kids for about three days. Who knows, maybe I’ll catch a glance of Sam from very, very far away. If I ever get the chance to, I’d love to shake his hand, look him in the eye, and say, “Thank you for inspiring me to do what I’ve always wanted to and now believe I really can. Fancy a pint?”

The best coincidence is that I recently turned 42. Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42.”

Whether you join MPC or not, what challenges will you tackle this year?

Maggie: Our Adoption Story

We quite suddenly adopted a dog two days ago. My husband was wary of me visiting the dog adoption clinics at a local pet store, and I assured him I wasn’t ready for a dog. I said we’d probably wait until next year when our younger child turns five.

Maggie

Then we met Maggie. When I first saw her, I thought, “I should really ignore that dog. She’s probably not right for us.” Then a volunteer offered to let my kids pet her. So I pet her. The volunteer started spewing off Maggie’s qualities: she’s 4-5 years old, she’s a Bishon Frise Maltese mix, she doesn’t shed, she’s hypoallergenic (so even people who are usually allergic to dogs could be okay around her), and she’s crate-trained.

Her hair is incredibly soft and thankfully short. When she was rescued, she was covered in foxtails, even having some in her mouth, and seemed like she hadn’t been fed properly for awhile. Doggie Protective Services cleaned her up, shaved her hair, vaccinated her, spayed her, and put her in loving foster homes until she could be adopted.

We were not planning to adopt a dog, not yet. Many people say though, “you don’t adopt a dog, they adopt you.” That’s really true in our case.

I’m beginning to think Maggie had some help from other four-legged friends. My sister-in-law has a small dog, a Silky terrier, and I got to walk him quite a few times in May. Then another couple we know got my daughter not to be scared of their Shih tzu Vinnie. My son Zach loves Vinnie so much, he asks to have play dates with him.

I follow quite a few animal lovers on Twitter. Many of them are also big advocates of pet rescue, Anne Wheaton and Ricky Gervais in particular. Anne Wheaton does a charity calendar each year, with proceeds going to the Pasadena Humane Society.

My kids are four and seven years old. I’d like to think that I’m not just trying to fill some void left behind of not having a baby or really little kid anymore. I suppose it doesn’t really matter what my intentions were, just that I stay committed to taking care of Maggie for the rest of her life.

I’ll admit, I’ve worried a tiny bit that I’m a flake, I’ll get buyer’s remorse and decide I can’t take care of her. The funny thing about suffering from anxiety is it makes you anxious about having anxiety.

Thankfully, Maggie has been so easy to take care of, and we’re all adapting so quickly, I haven’t had any concerns about not being able to take care of her. I’m a little nervous about when it starts raining a whole bunch, but since we live in California and we’re having a drought, it seems like I can punt on this for quite awhile.

I’ve never owned a dog before, and my husband hasn’t owned one for about 30 years. I feel somewhat irresponsible adopting a dog without prior or recent experience, but my friends and neighbors who own dogs, DPS Rescue, and the salespeople at the pet store have been really helpful.

Maggie’s going to take awhile to get adjusted to her forever home, but one day I hope to train her as a therapy dog. It’s supposed to be good for her and for the people she visits. I already feel more stable and relaxed having her, and it’s only been two days.

Ever rescued a pet? Share your story in the comments below.

Solo Parenting as a Mom with Depression

Mom reading to her daughter

My husband just finished a three-day backpacking trip. Before our son Zach was born seven years ago, my husband would go every year, for up to five days per trip. Since we’ve had kids, it just hasn’t seemed possible or advisable for him to go away for that long.

Some of my friends’ husbands travel frequently for work. I’m not sure whether they share these concerns, but this is what I’m afraid of when my husband is gone for a few days:

  • The kids will wake me up often, and I won’t get enough sleep (my husband usually does nighttime duty)
  • I will be short-tempered and yell more at my kids
  • I will lose my temper and get physically rough with the kids
  • I will feel guilty about my crappy parenting and start thinking about committing suicide
  • All my coping skills will fail, and I will attempt to commit suicide

I am happy to say that only the first of these fears actually happened. Here’s what I did to prevent the others.

Get enough sleep
It can be tempting to stay up late reading a good book or watching a movie, but remember that a good night’s sleep is the foundation you need to be able to use any other coping skills.

Maintain routines
I knew my kids would miss their dad, so I decided to make sure they got to do all the same fun stuff they’d usually do when he is around. We ate dinner and went to the nearby bookstore like we usually do on Friday nights, and camped out in the backyard. I took them to their Saturday swim lesson. I did let them watch a little more TV than usual, which they enjoyed.

Use a calendar to explain when the other parent will be home
My kids are four and seven years old so they don’t really understand time that well. We have a calendar posted on the refrigerator, and I used it to explain what was happening each day and when they’d get to see daddy again. Even though they still didn’t completely understand, somehow it was easier being able to point to each day. On my husband’s last business trip, we even crossed the days off to show how quickly the time was passing.

Schedule lots of play dates
Nothing can distract my children as well as playing with their friends. The night my husband left, we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant that has a bounce house. My son cried for awhile, but then he was too busy having fun jumping with his friends.

One of my friends even took my son Zach for an entire day and had him spend the night. Zach was so excited, it was as if he had won a jackpot.

My four-year-old daughter Kaylee was super excited to have Mama all to herself. She joked that her brother wasn’t home because he “wouldn’t play princess” with her earlier, like she’d personally evicted him.

I felt really proud when my husband came back from his backpacking trip. I not only kept the children alive, I bonded more with them and made the time really fun for all of us.

There was one little bump in the whole solo parenting experience. My husband decided to finish his trip a day early and asked us to pick him up at the trailhead. I misunderstood his directions and drove on a fire road for four miles, almost getting the kids and me stranded with no phone service (even dialing 911 didn’t work) and with actual thunder claps overhead. The road was so bad, driving over big boulders ripped off one of the running boards on my minivan.

If there were a time for me to completely lose my shit, this totally would have been it, but I had done so well the few days before, I breathed slowly and deeply and just had faith that if I stayed calm I’d get us out safely, even if it meant walking four miles in the rain with two kids.

For future reference, when there’s a sign that reads “OHV,” do NOT drive on it unless you have a 4×4 even when your GPS shows it as a regular road. “OHV,” I have learned, means “Off-highway vehicle.”

What do you do to survive solo parenting?

Preschool Interrupted

My four-year-old daughter Kaylee is acting up at lot at preschool. She’s crying hysterically over little things and refusing to participate in some activities.

Her teacher is suggesting different things to try to improve her behavior, but it’s hard to tell whether this requires only a small adjustment or whether the school is no longer an appropriate fit for her.

There are many contributing factors:

  • My son Zach is on summer vacation (he’s entering second grade in the fall), but Kaylee attends a year-round preschool
  • Kaylee stays up later on the days she naps, sometimes as late at 10:30 pm, then she’s cranky the next day
  • I was picking her up earlier one day per week because of a play date with friends
  • Her best friend at school is on vacation for a few weeks
  • We’ve been having an awful lot of fun on the days she hasn’t gone to preschool

It’s the end of the school year, Kaylee’s teacher is not returning next year, and sometimes I wonder whether the teacher has just kind of “had it” with some of the kids. She seems more stern and less patient than she did earlier in the year.

Kaylee does have some anxiety about not knowing things. She cried inconsolably one morning because she couldn’t remember the words for weather. Now every day we review the terms “sunny,” “windy,” and “rainy.”

Kaylee said she cried today because she didn’t know how to draw a pirate ship for art time, but in asking her more questions about it, she never even made it to the table before she started balking. The art lesson is teacher-directed, where the teacher tells the students what to draw and guides them in how to draw the subject. This art lesson only happens once a week. The rest of their art time the kids get to draw whatever they want.

I suspect that Kaylee resents being told what to draw and how to draw it. I get the point that the teacher can teach specific art skills the kids can use when they draw on their own, and that it can build the kids’ confidence to quickly make something recognizable. I also get that this can be too restrictive or boring for some kids.

The thing is, even if the preschool is too structured and no longer a good fit for Kaylee, I feel like I’m just going to be fighting these same battles when she’s in kindergarten when it’s even more structured. There are 27 kids per teacher in each kindergarten class in my son’s school. Many kids fall behind even when they’re trying their best, I can’t imagine what happens to the kids who refuse to participate.

There is another choice program in the school district that focuses more on project-based and hands-on learning, but it’s really hard to get into. Even if by some miracle she could get in, it would involve dropping off and picking up my kids at different schools at the same time, and it would require me to volunteer more in the classroom.

Kaylee’s preschool is closed the last week of July, then the new school year starts in August. Kaylee will be in Pre-K, and will move from classroom to classroom during the day, with a different teacher in each classroom. One teacher will teach math and science, another will teach art, and another will teach language arts.

I’ve started picking Kaylee up from school at the same time every day, after lunch, even though I’ve already paid for the full day this month. I’m hoping that having a shorter day, a consistent pickup time, and no nap will help her feel more comfortable at school. I’m desperately hoping that she likes all three of her new teachers. Perhaps she’s frustrated having to take orders from the same person all day long.

Hopefully Kaylee will feel less envious and less like school is optional when her brother starts school again in mid-August.

Her teacher and the preschool administrators assure me Kaylee is just going through a phase of feeling her power, testing boundaries, and craving attention. I hope so. It still saddens me that even if she would do better in a less-structured learning environment, I can’t provide that for her at the same school I send my son.

Did you kids ever suddenly start to hate preschool? How did you help them enjoy it again?

Indifference Can Be a Killer

A doctor with a clipboard

Ever had a doctor blow off your concerns, dismiss you, and leave you completely unsatisfied with your visit? Go check out my guest blog post over at My Migraine Family.

Wrap-up of Living Almost Five Days on $1.50 of Food per Day

Live Below the Line officially starts today. Participants will live on $1.50 of food and drink per day for five days. People do this to raise awareness about those living in extreme poverty and to raise funds for charities including Heifer International, Kiva.org, and UNICEF.

I am traveling this week, so I decided to do the challenge early, from April 23 – 27. As I wrote in my first post about the challenge, I was very worried about how eating so little would affect my depression and anxiety.

Here’s a breakdown of how I did:

  • Day 1: It was extremely hard, but I stuck to the guidelines.
  • Day 2: I purposely cheated by having a cup of black tea with milk and sugar that I hadn’t paid for out of my $7.50 budget
  • Day 3: I ate two tiny chocolate chip banana muffins I had baked at home but again hadn’t paid for within the budget
  • Day 4: I successfully avoided the temptation of pizza and cupcakes at a birthday party, but caved at dinner time eating some of my daughter’s hamburger and fries

My mood was terrible by the end of day 1, but improved dramatically on days 2 and 3. By the end of day 4 I was irrationally angry, basically terrorizing my family, especially my six-year-old son Zach. My husband was really freaked out by how angry I was, how upset Zach was, and that neither of us wanted to talk about it. I did apologize to Zach that night, but during breakfast on the fifth day, I could see that my husband and Zach were both still upset and hurt.

I decided to stop the Live Below the Line challenge a day early. That was part of the deal when I started. If the health or safety of my kids or me were jeopardized, I would stop immediately.

I did the challenge from a Wednesday through Saturday. Mostly it was because I just didn’t want to wait, but also I thought it might be helpful to have my husband around on the last day. I realize now it would have been better to do a Monday through Friday, as the challenge is usually set up. Weekends hold many more temptations, and my kids were home all day, grating my already frayed nerves.

I can’t imagine how people who live on so little every day can get by, especially if they have children. My depression worsened so much even though I was still taking my medication, still sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed, and with my husband’s help. I scaled my physical activity way back to try to conserve energy, but I suspect most people living in poverty can’t do that. They have to scramble at making a living just to survive.

I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to do the whole five days, but I know that I made the right choice to stop early. My sponsors have donated $462 for UNICEF. Donations are accepted through May 30, so please feel free to sponsor me if you haven’t already. It would be so great to raise at least $500.

One of the benefits I got from eating so little is that it helped me go “back to basics,” figuring out which foods I need to survive and be healthy and how much healthier I eat if I prepare meals ahead of time. I’ve already hard-boiled some eggs and prepared a salad to eat later.

Thank you to all my readers for their support and their generous donations.

Exercising (Away) the Demons of Depression & Anxiety

I used to always say that I would only run if chased, but last year I got a good pair of running shoes and would run two or three times per week. I stopped once it got too cold, but this week I started again.

A woman jogging

I only run about two to three miles, but it feels great. I signed up to run a 5k next month to help me stay motivated. Thankfully, 5k is just over three miles, so I should be able to run the whole thing without worrying about training too hard.

For most of my twenties, I treated my depression and anxiety by doing aikido a few times per week. I didn’t really know that I had depression or anxiety. I just assumed everyone else was being an asshole when they didn’t behave the way I thought they should.

I admit that I hope one day I might be able to treat my symptoms without medication. Having two kids under the age of seven seems like a bad time to try. In the meantime, medication plus exercise is working as a great combination.

One thing I like to do to squeeze in exercise into my day is to drop my car off somewhere that I’ll need to come back to later. I often park my car at my son’s school, walk the mile and a half home, do stuff around the house, and then walk the mile and a half back to his school.

The other day, I did basically the same thing except that my son was attending a day camp 6.5 miles away. I put my bike on the back of my truck, drove to the camp, rode my bike around for about 10 miles then drove my son home. My husband thought that seemed odd, but it makes sense to me.

There’s something really motivating to me that I have to go back to my car. Plus, leaving it in different locations varies the areas I’m going to, and that keeps it interesting. On my bike ride yesterday, I found a beautiful garden I’d never seen before.

I personally feel best exercising outdoors. When I run around my neighborhood at night, I get to smell the handiwork of my neighbors who are much better gardeners than I am. I smell roses, jasmine, wisteria, and orange blossoms.

Of course, if you can’t be outdoors due to weather or sleeping children, walking around the house can be effective. I vary the path I take through the bedrooms, kitchen, and living room, again to keep it interesting. I also try to get as close as I can to furniture and walls to maximize the area I’m walking in and to pretend a bit like I’m doing an obstacle course.

Last year my doctor recommended that I get a Fitbit, a pedometer that you can link online to your friends’ Fitbit accounts and sort of “compete” for first place. Some of my friends walk way more miles than I do, but being only a few steps behind one of my friends can help motivate me to walk a bit more just to get ahead. You can even “cheer” or “taunt” your friends.

I aim to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, but I don’t sweat it if some days I walk over and some I walk under. It’s all just about keeping moving. I even wear my Fitbit to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with steps counted because I tossed and turned so much.

My son Zach is in a martial arts class with his friend two afternoons per week, so his friend’s mom and I walk around for the 45 minutes the boys are in class. This is great because we motivate each other to exercise (no matter that we sometimes stop at Starbucks on the way), and we get to catch up, when time to socialize is often hard to find.

Whatever form of exercise you choose, I suggest you make it fun, by inviting a friend, changing things up if they start to feel repetitive or boring, and see if “stranding yourself” without a vehicle helps motivate you.

A friend of mine runs half-marathons, which is great for her. I might be tempted to feel inferior except that I honestly feel no desire to ever run that far. Unless I’m being chased, of course.

How do you motivate yourself to exercise?

Hi, I’m Frankie, and I Suffer from Depression

The front of my business card

The front of my business card

Every time I give my business card to someone, I think, “Oh my God, what have I done?” On this blog, I admit that I’ve been hospitalized for depression, still deal with thoughts of suicide, and have been a bit rough with my children.

The people I’ve been giving my business card to are usually parents that I know from my son’s school. Some of them have been neighbors. One couple I especially like and would like to get to know better. I was so out of it, I gave each of them my card.

I worry that they’ll be afraid of me, especially of having me around their kids. I fear they’ll misunderstand depression and think it’s contagious or something. Worse, I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weak, for taking medication and for not being able to control my thoughts.

Then I remember. I remember that I’m still the same person they know and (seem to) like. I remember that I write to give a voice to those with depression and anxiety. I present at least one face and experience that is a reminder that it’s okay to suffer from mental illness. I am not alone, neither are the other people who read my blog who deal with mental illness.

The back of my business card

The back of my business card

Part of my “paying it forward” from the many people who have supported me is to make a stand for those who are suffering and haven’t gotten help yet. I can’t do that if I’m pretending in my real life that I’m someone I’m not.

Depression does not define me, I am not my depression, but I don’t ever want to hide it from anyone. The treatment I find most effective is connection, in being with other people who understand and accept me as I am.

I’ve been telling people in my life about my depression for four years now, and so far not a single person has rejected or ridiculed me for it.

My hope is that being authentic and out-spoken about my depression may encourage others to be open about their experience or at least realize that they’re part of a larger community.

Depression lies, but I and others speak the truth that it’s treatable, and it can get better.

Do you feel comfortable sharing your struggles with people who aren’t close friends or family?

Small Fears I Let Get the Best of Me

A bridge in a rearview mirror

I have big anxieties about whether I’m being a good mother, whether something catastrophic is going to happen at any moment, and whether my loved ones are going to suddenly decide I’m a complete fraud and leave me forever. This post is not about any of those things. This is instead about silly things I worry about but continue to act as though they’re actual problems.

Equating the IRS with the Boogey man
I have a rather irrational fear of the IRS. We don’t own a business so it’s not like we’re trying to write off hundreds of questionable deductions, but I cannot bring myself to mail our tax documents to our accountant. I know I could photocopy them and keep a copy in case they get lost, but I’m so worried that we won’t even know in time that they’re lost, so I drive them 15 miles each way just to make sure that they get there without mishap. I’m also too lazy to weigh the envelope and figure out how many stamps it would require. I’m pretty sure I’m spending more money on gas than I would on postage, but this way gives me peace of mind. Or at least quiets down a little of my crazy.

Parking RIGHT up against the curb
This one is truly ridiculous because it’s inspired by a line in Neal Stephenson’s book “Snow Crash” (excellent read, by the way). He writes that minivan-driving mothers know “it’s better to take a thousand clicks off the lifespan of your Goodyears by invariably grinding them up against curbs than to risk social ostracism and outbreaks of mass hysteria by parking several inches away, out in the middle of the street (That’s okay, Mom, I can walk to the curb from here).”

I tell myself that I’m parking right up against the curb so it’s easier for my son Zach to climb in to our SUV, which sadly gets better gas mileage than our minivan, but really, I’m just committed to maintaining the standard of perfection set in a work of FICTION. It’s alright, by the time my kids are teenagers and likely to make this wisecrack, I’ll be an expert at parking with the tires just kissing the curb.

Parking right against the curb

I parallel park my minivan this close to the curb.

I did actually say this line to my poor mother once, and was immensely gratified to have embarrassed her enough for her to continue parking for a few more minutes. Yes, I was a brat, and I will never do this again, except maybe to my own kids when they’re learning to park.

My mother drives differently because of me
It’s funny how one bad experience can affect not only one’s future, but also someone else’s future. When I was 16 and learning to drive, I once forgot to disengage the emergency brake before driving a few feet. My mother was so upset by this, to this day, over 20 years later, she still takes the emergency brake off before putting the car in gear (which by the way, is less safe). When shifting into drive, you’re going to shift through neutral at which point you have no emergency break and are not in any gear.

Do you have innocuous fears from your past that still haunt you?

How I Stop Myself from Thinking about Suicide

I used to think that because I take an antidepressant, and I did 16 months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I wouldn’t think about suicide anymore. That’s simply not the case.

A man covering his face

When I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out, I still think about suicide. For a moment, I imagine a way I could make an attempt. It’s an extremely unhealthy way of coping with my anxiety. I feel so afraid that I’ll never get everything done, that I’m failing the people in my life in so many ways, that I’m drowning under the weight of all the responsibilities I have, and that I’ll never amount to anything.

What the antidepressant and DBT training do help me with is stopping the thoughts of suicide and regaining perspective.

Practicing Mindfulness
The first step is to become aware of my thoughts and my feelings. I “pause” my stream of worried thoughts by focusing on my breathing. I notice what sensations I’m feeling in my body (tight throat, quickened pulse, knot in my stomach) and try to identify what emotion I’m feeling.

Emotion Regulation
Once I’ve named the emotion I’m feeling, I assess what it’s trying to tell me. If I’m feeling guilty, it usually means I need to apologize. If I’m feeling angry, it’s usually because I feel I’ve been wronged somehow, and if that’s true, I need to forgive. If it’s not, I need to let go of my perfectionism which is setting unrealistic expectations of other people.

When I’m feeling anxious, it’s usually about having unrealistic expectations for myself. I try to notice what “stories” I’m telling myself, about having too much to do, of having to do everything RIGHT NOW, and how everything is falling apart. When I mentally look at these stories, I remember they’re not true. There is a lot to do, but I’m getting things done, one at a time, and nothing terrible is going to happen if something has to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or next week.

Sometimes I feel very sad that I’m not able to do all the things I want to do, to be the person I wish I could be. In those moments, it’s important to let the sadness in. To let my heart feel heavy, to feel my brow furrow, to notice the urge to hug something and be hugged. Even though I’m surrounded by my loved ones, life can still feel lonely.

Acceptance
Acceptance is not the same as approval or resignation. I accept that my life isn’t ideal, but it is as it is, and it is good. Accepting my experience for what it is enables me to do something about it. I get to choose whether to change things, to appreciate them, or reach out to someone to help me.

Connection and Gratitude
When I’m thinking about suicide, or in general just feeling overwhelmed, I usually feel totally alone. I fear that I have to do everything myself and that everyone else is depending on me.

It helps me to remember that I want to be there for my husband, my kids, and my friends, but also that they’re there for me too. My husband helps out a lot with the house and kids, and he’s always willing to listen and comfort me. My kids of course need me most of the time, but especially my six-year-old son will give me a hug if I ask him to. I try so hard to be the “rock” for them, I’m realizing it’s important to let them support me too. I don’t need to be invincible or infallible for them.

My friends will happily drop off food, go for a walk, or let me rant on the phone. I remember how much they have done for me, and I know that I want to stick around because I love paying it back and forward with them. I am blessed to be part of such a great community, and for all of my faults, I still have much to contribute and receive.

If you ever need someone to talk to, please call a helpline (1-800-273-TALK [8255]). They’re there to support you, whether you’re about to commit suicide or just need someone to listen.

How do you pull yourself out of the darkness?