I’m Still Here

It’s a Tuesday, August 17th.

I don’t have anything novel or revolutionary to say. I’ve been in somewhat of a low place the last few weeks. But I just wanted to post something to say that I’m still here (it’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve been active on here.)

I just reorganized and sorted through my sock and underwear drawer. It is therapeutic for me to organize and get rid of things. Clutter is one of my kryptonites (not sure if that’s the proper plural of kryptonite?)

I know I’m stressed because I’ve been wanting to clean and organize, and reorganize, and sort, and declutter… and it never seems to be enough.

I’m anxious about my son starting Kindergarten (in 2 days!) I’m anxious about the Delta variant, and about the fact that schools around here seem to be doing nothing as a precaution.

I’m frustrated about things that never seem to change despite me working really hard to change them. The other day I hit a point where I questioned why I’m even putting in the effort. It it’s not going to make a difference, I could at least save my energy for other things.

I’ll give you an example. Sometimes (well, if I’m honest, many times) I hate how I look. I put in a lot of effort to style my hair, do my makeup, choose what clothes I wear… and then I see myself in a picture and I think that it was all for nothing. I might as well just roll out of bed, throw on any old clothes and walk out the door – either way, I won’t like how I look. (I know this is a defeatist attitude, but here we are.)

A second example: sometimes I wonder why I pray about things if they don’t seem to be changing. Why does it feel like God isn’t listening? When is it appropriate to give up and move on? I woke up early this morning to pray when that thought popped into my head. And then I thought about Joseph, and about how he spent years in terrible situations like slavery and prison, but that in the end, it had a purpose. If he could have seen the future, he could have seen that all of it was leading up to something bigger than him, all he had to do was endure it. (Feel free to read more about Joseph in the latter half of Genesis, I know I did not do the story justice here.)

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pink boxing gloves

Guest Post: Combating Negative Thoughts

Greetings! I’m not sure exactly how to introduce myself here, but my name is Megan, and I am a friend of Erica’s. She asked me if I’d write something “related to mental health” for this month as a guest post, and I agreed because mental health is such an important topic, especially in my life. When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression, and an anxiety diagnosis was added on during my adulthood. I’m very open about my mental health history, which (I suspect) is probably why Erica was comfortable asking me to pick a topic to write about.

As someone who deals with anxiety and depression, one of the things I struggle with the most is fighting against negative thoughts. Some of these thoughts are specific ideas I go back to time and again when I am feeling down about myself, and some are intrusive thoughts that will pop up in my head when I am dealing with a particularly difficult situation. Either way, both types of negative thoughts start a spiral where my mood just drops down significantly. Once that happens, it can be hard to lift myself back up again.

My family occasionally sees a family counselor to work on creating a healthy dynamic at home, and during a recent session we spoke about some ways to combat these types of thoughts. I was actually a bit reluctant to talk about it at first. It seems like for years I’ve been inundated with “think positive” messages from all over, from the media, to my friends, to my doctors. And all it seemed to do was put pressure on me. I even developed a new recurrent negative thought of maybe I’m just a negative, toxic person because I couldn’t stop negative thoughts from popping up.

Before our family counselor began sharing any exercises with us though, she emphasized to us that it’s important we know negative thoughts are perfectly normal. Hearing this was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders! I’d been berating myself for so long for having so many negative thoughts, but maybe I could let go of some of that judgment towards myself.

One of the ways she showed us how to combat negative thoughts is to 1) acknowledge the thought, and 2) immediately replace it with something that we know to be true and good. I’ll give some examples below:

“I hate my life!” —–> “I don’t hate my life. I’m struggling with this situation, but I know what to do and I will get through this.”

“I’m so dumb.” —–> “I’m not dumb. I feel a little silly for the mistake I made, but I’m capable of so many things and I’ll continue to do my best.”

Sometimes therapy exercises can feel a little awkward, but she had us come up with some typical thoughts that pop up, and we practiced rewriting those. And then we gauged how we felt after reading each sentence, both the negative and then the changed one.

For me, now that I’ve had some time to practice this in my real life for several weeks, I’ve found changing my thoughts to be an empowering experience. Negative thoughts may come, but they don’t have to control me. If you find that you struggle with this type of thinking, I encourage you to perhaps try this exercise for yourself and see if you feel the same way.

Thanks for reading my small contribution to Erica’s blog! And a big thanks to Erica for asking me to share.

Megan is a military spouse and stay-at-home parent to her two daughters, Heidi and Thea. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Wright State University (Go Raiders!). She has lived in Abilene, TX for the last 4.5 years, and she enjoys traveling across the world to get new stamps in her passport with her family. She is also an extrovert at heart and loves coffee dates, window shopping, and game nights with friends. 

bouquet of flowers in vase

5 Years After Postpartum Depression

It’s 5 years out from the day I went to the emergency room for postpartum depression

July 26th will always be a significant date to me for that reason. In years past, it was always a day that filled me with guilt and shame. A day that reminded me of my ultimate failure as a mother. 

The lie that “I’m not a good mother” still tries to creep in every so often, especially today, but I’m getting better at recognizing it for what it is: a lie. 

5 years ago what I needed was to get help. I needed to go to the psych hospital and recover until I could be safe enough to be on my own. I gave up a week of my life with my baby so I could spend the rest of my life being the mother he needed me to be. It was the right decision. 

I’m thankful to my husband for having the courage to make the difficult decision to take me to the ER. It was scary and stressful, and I wasn’t in any state of mind to be at all helpful. I’m thankful for his background in mental health and for his experience with crisis work. I’m thankful he didn’t wait and hope I would get better on my own. 

I’m thankful for the person I’ve become because of this experience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to practice vulnerability with people, to share my story with others, and to make meaning out of suffering. 

I’m grateful for my postpartum depression being a wake up call to my obsession with perfection. I appreciate how this experience humbled me, how it helped me to realize that I’m not in control of everything, and how I learned that doing my best is oftentimes better than doing something perfectly. And everyone’s “best” looks different.

I’m grateful to be in a healthy place emotionally about this experience. I really feel like I hit a turning point last year, 4 years after the event. Honestly, I think it took about 3-4 years to really fully recover mentally from the depression. Healing is such a long process. 

I’ve said before that going through this made me a stronger person, but I am only stronger because I recognize my weaknesses and my shortcomings. And because I accept them. I accept myself.  

I’m grateful to have been writing on Threads of Anxiety for four years now, and look forward to more years in the future. 

Thanks for reading.