Five daily practices to live well with anxiety and depression.

  Awareness is good, but solutions are what we need.

More people are committing suicide every day, and more young adults are on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds than ever before. Awareness is all the buzz, but no real change has come from it. We are being educated on how to identify mental illness, famous people are openly discussing their mental health battles (Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato), doctors and therapists teaching are us about the disease and while all of these things are necessary and good they aren’t affecting real change.

Concrete solutions to mental health lead to concrete change.

One of the reasons I started writing and researching depression and anxiety was because what was out there left me feeling empty and more hopeless. I couldn’t be the only one frustrated with what the world was offering. Nothing I read left me encouraged, in fact most of what I found left me hopeless. Books and articles that say things like “this is your new normal, this is your life.”   Out of this frustration came the passion and drive to find real solutions. Solutions, for how to live every day well whether I’m depressed or not. Even if I never get depression again or I don’t struggle with these issues, we ALL want to live our best life, a life of abundance. So how do we actually do that? How do we make lasting change, and take control of our disease instead of letting it control us.

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More self-help books than you know what to do with……but do they really help and can they be implemented?

 1. Faith

Faith is number one for a reason; because there is no hope without faith. Scrolling through Twitter, watching the news, or spending more than ten minutes on social media you’ll realize that what the world has to offer empty. There are so many people, that are hurting, crying for help, hopeless, and feel lost. There have been seasons where I have been far away from God, sought out other things to either numb the pain or run away from it, and it never works, and in the end, I always came back to my faith. The only way to truly combat the demons that we face is to be grounded in God’s Word. Hope and Laughter was born out of Romans 12:2 “do not be conformed to the pattern of the world but instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I loved this verse because there was so much hope that my brain could change, could be renewed and now there is science to prove it.

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Spending time in God’s Word changes the way we think and the way we perceive our life. Couldn’t we all use a change in perspective?

2. Fitness

This one took me awhile to be honest. I never really enjoyed working out and the only time I did was when I was paying someone to hold me accountable. After I had Priscilla that was no longer feasible, not just the financial aspect, but honestly the time. Time was always an issue, finding someone to watch the kids, my husband’s work schedule. It just never seemed to line up. When I finally got in a groove and found what worked for me, it became a habit. A habit that I saw not only changed me physically but changed my attitude and decreased my anxiety. I started researching the benefits of exercise and couldn’t believe how beneficial it was.  Exercise alters your mood by increasing endorphins, helps decrease your anxiety, and decreases your risk for depression. I soon realized that fitness was a must not a maybe.

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If you would’ve asked me even 5 years ago if I would’ve attempted to do a triathlon I would’ve said that’s reserved for real athletes, not me.

How do we make lasting change, and take control of our disease instead of letting it control us? 

 3. Fuel

For the longest time I thought that fuel was only about what you ate. Fueling your body, with healthy foods, would keep your body in tip top shape, but that wasn’t motivation enough for me. At the time I found most healthy foods to be boring, and fueling my body the right way just sounded like a daunting task. Once I realized that Fuel was not just about what you ate, but about what you read, what you watched, what you listened to my perspective changed. These were all things that were fueling your body, mind, soul and spirit. It mattered how you were fueling your body because it affected your mind. The mind was my motivation.

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Fuel isn’t just about what we eat…….but what we read, watch, listen to and fill our hearts and minds with. Adults are just as impressionable as children……

  4. Fellowship

Fellowship may seem like a stretch or for a daunting task if you’re in the throes of depression. Certain seasons fellowship is really hard, but fellowship is much more than just texting friends or scrolling through social media and commenting on someone’s post. Fellowship is about developing real relationships with  real people. People that will meet you where you’re at with what you are able to give.  Face to face conversations. The world says do everything independently, and God says we are one body with many parts, but all the parts are necessary to make the body. We are called to be in community. True success both relationally and mentally require community. There are different levels of community and different seasons of fellowship, either way it is necessary.

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Real community will change your life, your heart, broaden your perspective and force you outside of yourself. How much more do we learn from relationships versus a book. The Bible is a book filled with relationships that are broken, messy and redemptive. Real people with real problems and real redemption.

5. Freedom

Freedom is the one we need most and the one we make the least amount of time for. Proverbs says where there is no vision the people perish. God has put a purpose and a dream in our hearts and we must find time to pursue that. Whatever it is, wherever you are, with what you have. For me my freedom was found in writing. It was an outlet for me that left me renewed after I spent time writing, not depleted. Whatever your passion is  whether cooking, writing code (that’s my husband’s), photography, or anything that leaves you fueled instead of depleted take the time every day to pursue it. You don’t need to cook a gourmet meal for twenty people or develop your own software. It can be as simple as looking through a cookbook, buying a magazine about home decor whatever it is it will renew your mind, replenish your soul and fuel your day. We were created for a purpose and our purpose is more than getting by but living abundantly.

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My happy place. One of the best presents I’ve ever gotten…….A place where I can pursue my passion.

Sara

 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:1

In spite of all the awareness why is suicide more prevelant?

The confusion of suicide.

Because today is World Suicide Awareness Day, I thought it only fitting to address the subject. This topic is never easy to discuss, is a hard thing to understand, and is always painful. I’m sure I don’t articulate well enough the darkness that was around me for so long trying to understand and wrap my brain around why my father chose to leave. I have reconciled to the fact that I will never know the answers.

Just this past month a pastor in California committed suicide and left behind a wife and three children. This just shocked me, but in some ways gave me hope that this gentleman’s story would be used to shed light on a topic so often ignored by the church.  Now people would understand that this isn’t exclusive to members of the church, or as some believe exclusive to non-believers. Depression which can often lead to suicide or thoughts of suicide can even happen to a pastor. Being a Christian doesn’t make you immune.

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Image credit: @kaylasteck/Instagram

The added grief of suicide.

There is added heartbreak that comes when you lose someone to suicide. The confusion, the shock. There is an added layer of emotions, on top of the natural grief of death. You can’t reconcile it. It doesn’t make sense, and those left behind are consumed with guilt. It falls out of the natural order of life. It’s something we can’t wrap our brain around, and honestly, I hope I never do.

You aren’t the only one.

Over the last several years as I’ve shared my story and sometimes with unbridled transparency and I have come to realize that so many people have lost someone to suicide, way more than I ever thought. The most startling aspect is that it seems to be happening more and more, not less and less. This should raise an alarm in all of us.

With all the technology, education, research, awareness, meds, virtual community and social media shouldn’t this problem be decreasing?

One thing, that I know many will disagree with is that we have spent so much energy teaching our children and ourselves independence that we have forgotten the power of community. We were created to live with others. The burdens the world puts on us were never meant to be carried alone.  The burden is too heavy, it is against the core of who we are created to be.

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When I look back at the early church and how they helped one another out I realize it’s such an example of how things should be, helping one another coming alongside one another to share in their burdens as well as work together to fill in the gaps, where you are weak I am strong.

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Real friendships, real community and real intimacy. 

And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Somehow we have lost this, we text, we Facebook message, we Insta message, we watch stories, we scroll the feed and think we know what’s really going on with one another, and yet we couldn’t be more disengaged, more lonely and more isolated than ever before. Real love, the love that Christ shows us and that we are supposed to emulate is the kind of love where you call someone, you bring them coffee, you offer to help them with their kids, you make time out of your schedule to meet them, you ask them about what’s going on with them, and listen, even if you don’t understand, even if it makes no sense to you, you listen.

           We are called to listen, to love and love without judgment, where someone is at, exactly as they are.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

We are called to love with every once of our being. So if you see someone hurting, even if you feel like you can’t relate, you don’t know what to say, lean in to God, lean on the Holy Spirit for understanding and let go of your own insecurities and show someone else the power of Christ’s love.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19.

I stand with you,

Sara

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, contemplating suicide, or you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

 

Redemption (Testimony Part III).

The good news is after reaching bottom, the only way out is up. I found a job in Salado at a jewelry store and started fresh. My step-dad was the most amazing support during this. He never judged me, he knew the horror and shame that I felt for this decision. He knew every job application I’d have to explain my “obstruction of highway passage”, any man I dated, the shame I caused my mom and my family. My arrest was proof that I had never really dealt with all that had happened and life had finally caught up to me. Life just keep happening, things kept changing and I never really had the time to grieve and get well.

About six weeks after I moved in with my parents, I was dying to get back on my own, and give them some space as well. No one wants to live with newlyweds especially if it’s your parents! (Sorry mom, LOL!)  I knew eventually I wanted to find a job in Austin, so I found an apartment there and moved a couple of weeks later. My poor step-dad moved me close to 6 times before I got married. He was thrilled when I met Mark because he knew he’d never have to move me again.

I felt like I had been given a second chance at life, and everything seemed fresh to me. I wanted to start over and I wanted to start in Austin, where no one really knew me and knew my past. Because I worked on Sundays I knew it’d be hard to find a church so I asked some of my friends and found a Bible Study. I began to meet wonderful girlfriends, godly women, who weren’t perfect and accepted me just as I was and exactly where I was at. I even met amazing godly men who were encouraging and a great support for me. I had finally found a community of people to support me, and to many friends to count.  Friends that are still a part of my life today. We watched each other get married, have children and it all began with that one Bible Study almost 12 years ago. God was continuing to heal and restore me, one day at time.

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I began doing my community service for my arrest and God used that in amazing ways. I ended up getting a full-time job from the non-profit that I was doing my community service for. It was kind of a staff joke that I was a former CSR that was now a full-time employee. I began working for an attorney in a non-profit and just took to the job immediately. I revamped the systems of the entire department. The job was a great fit. It was yet another way that God was healing me. I had value, purpose and I was doing well spiritually and emotionally. Things were beginning to stabilize. Not to long after that, a girlfriend of mine from Bible Study asked me to move in with her. She was one of those people who understood the things I had gone through and had her own hardships as well. One of those people that you will be friends with for life. That move changed my life. Little did I know that God had planted my husband, right next door. It was only a matter of months before we were engaged. I still laugh to this day about my husband’s first impressions of me. He said when we first met he thought I partied a lot because I was out all the time. We laugh now because what he didn’t realize at the time was that I was either at  Bible Study, or out with my friends from the singles group at our church. I still to this day have some of the best memories with those friends. We had so many great times, Shady Grove Unplugged, dancing at Gruene Hall, and time on the lake.

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Our wedding was such a celebration. I was so madly in love with my husband and still am. We had a whirlwind romance that ended with my dream wedding. I know so many people thought that my wedding was over the top, but to me I just wanted to thank all those people that had prayed for me, loved me, encouraged me and stood beside my mom and me all those years before. It wasn’t just a party about celebrating my marriage it was a party about my healing, and that called for a celebration.

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There is hope and my life is living proof. My life isn’t perfect, trust me. But this my friends, is only the beginning I can’t wait for you to embark on this journey with me.

Fellow warrior,

Sara

 

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My Story…..

Part I of III.

The most powerful thing about your story is that no one can change it or take it away from you. It is wholly and completely yours. Today, I want to share with you how this all began and why I had the desire to share my story. I’m going to break it up over several blogs, so it’ll be easier to digest so bear with me.  It’s a pretty scary thing when I really start to think about it, so I don’t. (haha, not exactly an emotionally mature response I know.) I sit here, restored and renewed, but with a work in progress sign hanging around my neck. I come before you today humbled, confident, full of joy but at the same time broken, damaged and cautious of what lies ahead. This is my reality. The reality of living with depression and anxiety.

My desire to share my story and give others hope is because of the lack of hope I have found in this world, for someone struggling with anxiety and depression. For me, my story really began 26 years ago when my own father took his life at the age of 44 years old. My father was an amazing godly man, one who I remember reading his Bible every day, leading Bible Studies, a deacon in his church, volunteering with the youth group and loving our family well. We didn’t have a lot but I knew every day how much my parents loved me. I was only 12 years old when my father took his life, and what I didn’t realize until later was that my father was waging a war against anxiety and depression. In the last months of his life I saw his personality change and light in his eye grow dim. I saw the angst and frustration that the depression caused my mother and the struggles it brought my family. I was way too young to truly understand what was happening. I was so confused by my dad’s decision especially for the fact that my dad was doing all the “right” things. He was on meds, meeting with our pastor, meeting with a deacon as well as receiving Christian counseling. I think this planted a seed for me. I was confused and so was the church about my father’s decision. I also experienced such horrible judgment most of which came from inside the church. The next 6 years looked very different for me. After my father’s death, I lost both grandfather’s and a grandmother and watched our family struggle, like I had never seen before. We struggled in every aspect imaginable, financially, spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. My mom was now on her own to raise me, with no financial cushion, and no life insurance we had to start at the bottom and work our way through life as a completely new family for a reason that made no sense.

Looking back at my life from that point on I can see how the seeds of depression had already  begun growing and how I probably should’ve been on antidepressants all the way through high school. My response to what happened to me was normal considering the gravity of how much my life had changed, but really I wasn’t processing anything and I managed to stuff it all down and carry on. I graduated high school applied to one school, Baylor and was headed off to college.

I was definitely ready to leave Temple, the irony was that I only went about 30 miles away to Waco. This was the beginning of the internal conflict that was brewing inside of me about being close to my mom, but wanting to be completely away from my small town, questioning my faith, wondering where God was in all of this, but at the same time feeling as though He was the only one with the answers. Going to college and especially a Baptist school where everyone was a Christian left a sour taste in my mouth. I was surrounded by people who really had never experienced any trials or hardships and I felt completely isolated and alone. My friends were people who had a mom and a dad, a trust fund, and a career path. I realized I went to school because that was what you were supposed to do after college, but I really had no idea what I wanted to do, but just knew I wanted to be away and be on my own. College was a struggle and I had no business being there. I am sure that I spent my entire college career depressed and unable to function normally. Things hit rock bottom when I wasn’t going to class, and completely cut off all contact with my mom. My mom had to break in my apartment and confront me, she knew I was depressed and I can only imagine the fear and anger she was going through. Here I was a student, super involved, well rounded, someone who thrived, and now in college, I was failing my classes, unable to study and involved in pretty much nothing. My mom brought me home forced me on meds, and I began to realize that I too had depression and I had no idea what that meant for me.

Fellow warrior, 

Sara

Testimony Part II: https://thehopeandlaughter.com/2017/06/18/my-testimony-part-ii/

Testimony Part III: https://thehopeandlaughter.com/2017/06/25/redemption-testimony-part-iii/

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T-ball Practice…..yeah, t-ball practice.

Sometimes anxiety comes at the most unexpected times for what seems like the littlest of things.  Can I tell you I still have nightmares that I didn’t graduate college. That I get a phone call and there’s one class that they missed that I still need to take in order to graduate, and yes I have my framed diploma. Yeah, anxiety is just not rational.

I told my friend I had anxiety about going to my son’s first t-ball practice. She was surprised. It amazed me the number of reasons I could give why I was anxious. I’ll get lost and not make it to t-ball practice. What if it’s on a different day and I misread the email? What if I get there and no one else shows ups? What if he hates it? What if all the moms look really cute and I’m the frumpy one? What if my daughter has meltdowns? What if he doesn’t have the right pants, or shoes or shirt?(I know silly, but I didn’t play sports and I’m an only child, so pretty clueless when it comes to sports and my husband was out of town). What if we just don’t fit in? You get the idea.

Did I mention that I was meeting my friend? Uh yeah, all this anxiety and my good friend’s son was playing t-ball too. She’s one of those awesome friends, that just tells it like it is. Ladies, everyone needs a friend like this. Her confidence blows me away, and it’s something to be admired. She rolls with the punches, she doesn’t care what others think (and not in a disrespectful kind of way), you just feel bolder around her, these kinds of friends are priceless. Being tough and strong doesn’t mean doing this life alone. Being tough and strong means having the courage to ask for help, and invite others along.  So, I had a friend to meet, someone who I knew well, and still all this anxiety. The good news is when you’re doing something for your kids, well you just have to do it. My anxiety can’t prevent my son from going to t-ball practice, can it? Well honestly, it can but I didn’t want it to. Sometimes you just have to do things you don’t feel like doing. Honestly, after I got there, and saw my son out there, the anxiety passed, we laughed, my daughter had meltdowns, but I wasn’t the only mom with small children, and I forgot snacks at home, but the other moms shared with me. We all desire to appear as though we have ourselves put together, and our “on top of it.” When in reality we’re all doing our best and some days are just harder than others.

You know that friend I confided in about my anxiety for my son’s first t-ball practice? She shared with me something that brought her anxiety, and you know, it just made me feel better. Not because I desired for her to go through that, but to be reminded that I wasn’t the only one that experienced anxiety, in the everyday, in the little things.

#hopeandlaughter #ididitanyway #anxietymindswantstoknow #iamnottheonlyone

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The Why

This can’t be happening again? That’s the question I asked myself a year ago when I was diagnosed with depression for the third time. After an almost complete lifestyle change how am I here again? All these questions, lead me here, writing a blog post, putting myself out there, and seeing what happens. The fact that I’m even writing a blog post is laughable enough. I have no professional skill, I’m not a good writer, I’ve never been published, the list goes on.  The one thing I do have is experience and if I don’t share my experiences, everything I learned and am learning, all the tools, encouragement and knowledge I’ve gained over the past 22 years is wasted. 

Struck by lightning, electrocuted, hair standing on end, with my finger still stuck in the socket, pretty much sums it up.  I didn’t see it coming, one day I was driving the car on cruise control, with the top down, my hair blowing and jamming to some Rihanna, the next day, I’m in the backseat, someone else is driving and I have no idea how I get there. Depression, wasn’t supposed to come back, not now, in my mind not ever. I had beat it. Eight years, with no issues, a healthy marriage, financially stable, two healthy children, an abundance of family and friends. It just didn’t make sense. Hadn’t I done all the “right” things to prevent it? The first two times I got depression made sense to me. This one didn’t. There was no big drama in my life, no life changing event, (from my perspective), so why now? 

So this time around was going to be different, I was mad, I was equipped, still depressed, but ready to do battle. I knew what to expect, or so I thought. Things weren’t going how I planned, the tools that had worked before weren’t working anymore, I was actually becoming depressed, about being depressed again. You can see how this could become a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that could lead me plummeting down a mountain into a ditch I could never get out of. It was hard enough the first two times, but this time seemed even worse. 

 How could someone at 38 years old get her third round of depression, and feel completely hopeless, and utterly dumbfounded. In an age where information is everywhere, resources are abundant, and communication is accessible, why was there nothing out there? Why is all the information about depression discouraging, hopeless and completely out of touch?  Why are the authors of the majority of books about depression being written by those who’ve never experienced it? The list of questions could go on. Basically I found no hope for someone like me. So instead of trying to search for hope, laughter, joy, encouragement and peace, I decided I’d create it for myself, and maybe just maybe, share it with others. 

#hopeandlaughter #anxiety #depression #iamnottheonlyone #thewhy

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