VERSE OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2017

1cor10_31

This month’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:31. I chose this verse because this month I feel like the Lord is calling me to make some lifestyle changes to enhance my journey toward healing. While there are many things that I need to adjust, the one I am starting with is exercise.

I know that exercise can help with depression, and it did to a degree for me in the past when I was an athlete. However, since having my second child, I’ve allowed myself to become physically unfit; and it has taken its toll on my mind, body, and spirit.

Since this is the first change I feel like the Lord is wanting me to address, I have challenged myself to workout for at least 20 minutes every day this month. It’s going to be difficult for me, but it needs to be done. God has given me a healthy body, and I need to tend to and cultivate it so that I can better serve Him.

I hope you have a happy, healthy August!

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VERSE OF THE MONTH: JULY 2017

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Brand new guitar strings fall out of tune more quickly than it takes to get them to play the right notes. At least this is true of the type of strings I prefer to play with. They require quite a bit of stretching and adjusting before they are able to hold their assigned note. However, after they are worked with thoroughly, they can produce the sweetest melodies.

Similar to these guitar strings, we must be pulled on, stretched, tested, and worked on until the tune of our heart is pleasing to the Lord.

My prayer for this month is that the Lord will tune me in a way that Jesus can be seen through me so that whatever good things He has planned for me can come to pass.

Happy July!

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VERSE OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2017

Isaiah 601

At the first of every month, I’m going to begin posting a verse of the month. For June, I’ve chosen Isaiah 60:1.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”

June ushers in the second half of the year. The first half of my year has been shadowed with a dark cloud brought on by  a new mental health diagnosis, and the rocky path that comes with changing medications. I’ve found myself in places that were pitch black with hopelessness and despair.

In the previous chapter, Isaiah 59, there is a thick darkness that is described. Darkness is for slumber, worry, and fear. The light is for awakening, and when it comes upon us, we must respond by rising up.

The illuminating glory that comes from the Lord is what washes over you because He has caused His face to shine upon you for both your redemption and for others to see the salvation He has brought to you.

June is my month for rising up, and I believe it is for many of you as well. When the darkness creeps up on you, remind yourself that “your light has come,” and that light will always overcome the darkness.

Happy June, friends!

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Withdrawal: An Unexpected Drug Addiction

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I’ve been radio silent for several days because I’ve felt like hell, and I’ve been catching up on some Zzz’s and spending a little more time with my family.

I want to say that I know nothing about recreational drugs. I’ve went to precisely two parties in college where there were a few people standing outside smoking weed, and those few people didn’t include me. I didn’t even get drunk at any of the college parties that I went to except for the one time I became pretty tipsy after taking a big shot of peppermint schnapps, which I immediately regretted, not because of any convictions but because it set my esophagus on f i r e.

I only know that you can snort cocaine because of the term “booger sugar” (my husband is giggling like a 7th grader as he reads this). I once had a conversation with a friend about some of her friends who got slipped some sort of drug that was laced with something, and I said something to the effect of “Maybe it was laced with LCD.” I quickly remembered (5 minutes later) that it was LSD not LCD.

After stating all of that, you can guess that I’ve never done recreational drugs or even smoked a cigarette (I detest smoking).

However, when it comes to prescription drugs, I can rattle off things about Xanax, Valium, Ativan, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, hypnotics, and so on. I’m privy to this knowledge because I’ve taken several medications from all of this classes at some point of another.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I was on a medication for several months before it stopped working, and I dropped into a dramatic depressive state. Well, in that last month, I was weaned off of that medication. I did it over the course of two weeks.

This med is called Effexor, and my psyche professional wanted me to come off of it (I was at the max dosage) because it was causing me not to sleep and not to even miss it. Of course, sleep deprivation always catches up to me, and the depression sneaks up from behind me and pulls me under.

After weaning off of the Effexor, I started having horrible physical reactions. My neck stiffened, I had unbearable headaches, nausea that made me throw up, and insane vertigo.

This is when I went to the doctor thinking I had a bad ear infection. I didn’t and was diagnosed with an inner ear inflammation due to allergies. Predisone was prescribed which sent me into a wild manic state followed by a quick and furious drop. It was truly the worst mood shift I’ve EVER had.

The vertigo persisted as did all of the other physical symptoms. My anxiety also shot through the roof because of this. Another doctors visit ended with a referral for an MRI. I didn’t go in for that because I didn’t want to spend the money.

My husband called my psyche practitioner because he was worried about me. She told him that it sounded like withdrawals from the Effexor. She sent in a prescription for the lowest dosage of it to reintroduce into my system.

I also realized that I had been taking 150mg more of one of my mood stabilizers that I was supposed to which also contributed to the horrific side effects.

After sorting out these issues, I’m starting to physically feel better and mentally blunted. My moods were highly unstable, but now they are way more even.

After dealing with all of these withdrawal symptoms, I have an even deeper compassion for those who go through DTs from stronger drugs. What I went through was minimal compared to what they must grow through, yet I felt like I was literally going to die some nights.

The one thing that I’ve been clinging to through the many downs that I’ve experienced over the last few weeks is the verse Psalm 56:3:

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” 

Repeating this over and over in my mind or aloud has slowed my heart rate, slowed the racing thoughts, and stopped the throbbing in my temples.

I one day further in my healing process.

Until next time, friends!

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Committed: My Stay in a Mental Health Facility

A nurse had me strip down to nothing. I was completely naked. Exposed.

Vulnerable.

you are not your illness

Trigger Warning: There is a bit of talk about suicidality in this post. If hearing about someone’s struggle with wanting to self-harm will trigger you, only read the last couple of paragraghs – or nothing at all.

After seven weeks of spiraling depression, I finally hit the bottom. Landing in a lightless pool of tears, I momentarily struggled to get to the surface, finally succumbing to the slow weightless gravity of the depths of that cold well.

Light started to glimmer on the stillness of the top.

A child’s sincere prayer was heard, and by the strength of the Almighty, I was brought out of the depths, and placed on the flourishing green grass surrounding that dank, stoney well.

I’ve fallen in that same well a few times before, each time being lifted out, not by my own strength, but by the strength placed in others by God Himself.

Two suicide attempts, countless hopeless hours wishing I could just drown, and one solid, peaceful plan to end my life; I finally decided to reach out for the right kind of help.

I was completely against being committed to a mental health facility for so long, but I had needed to be there more times than I have fingers.

After seven weeks of falling, crashing yet again into the same cold water, I cried out for the aid I truly needed.

Only sleeping two or three hours a night for two months has a horrific impact on your thinking.

I had had five good months. Five months of even moods, increased energy, and motivation.

Coming down from that high place made the fall even worse because I hadn’t had that many days without depression and anxiety in more than 10 years.

My focus became fuzzy. I would completely zone out at work. I began to forget things that were on my openly visible to-do list that I kept on my desk. Irritation stung more than ever before to the point I was having trouble being around people.

Finally, the exhaustion and inability to complete a thought caught up to me, and the cracking dam broke loose.

I picked up my kids from daycare with tears streaming down my face. I don’t cry in front of people, but they could not be stopped. Driving to a safe place, with my precious babies in the backseat, they were more than concerned as their mother wailed for relief.

My three almost four year old daughter said loudly from the backseat “Lord,  keep my mommy safe, and make her feel better.” That was the light that danced across the top of the deep.

My husband met me at this safe place. I had called my psychiatry office to talk to the doctor on call. I was hoping that it was my regular practitioner, but it wasn’t. The nurse on the other end said my husband had just called two minutes prior to me picking up my phone.

He’s the one who always makes the call for me because I’m either too upset or too ashamed.

This time I didn’t care. I needed help or I was not going to make it.

I kept telling my husband over and over,  “I need to go to the hospital. I need to go to the hospital.”

The doctor rang me back, and asked me a ton of questions.

Even though I told her that I was struggling with suicidality, she was most concerned with my sleeplessness. Most doctors try hard to keep their patients out of psyche wards because they can be brutally scary and often times unhelpful.

Ambien was prescribed, and I got a whopping three hours of sleep that night. I had a previously scheduled psyche appointment with my regular practitioner that week, so I was urged to vow to safety and make it to then.

Sitting in her office, she blatantly asked me if I was having self-harming thoughts. I learned a while ago to not lie about this.

“Yes.”

In the past, I had been prescribed either new or additional medications and placed under constant surveillance for about two weeks at home.

I was tired of putting my family in a situation where they had to baby sit me, so I said again: “I need to go to the hospital.”

“OK. I need you to not leave this office until your husband can come and take you. I’ll make the call to see when they can take you in.”

I was urged to choose a women’s facility close to my house that only housed eight beds. They could get me in the next morning. The nurse called me that night as I was waiting and asked me if I had a plan. (A plan for suicide that is)

After careful research, I had coldly calculated an incredibly detailed plan two years prior to this phone call. It’s the one I always go back to when I tip over into the dark, cold well of apathy.

I’ll never share it with anyone outside of a practitioner, so it isn’t outlined in this post at all, and never will be in any of my writing.

I will say that when I do hit the bottom, it is a very peaceful and satisfying process of thoughts because I feel like it would actually bring me relief.

Many say that suicide is selfish. It’s easy to be the judge when you’re on the outside and think you know everything.

While some people may want to commit suicide to throw blame, guilt, and revenge on those who cause them pain,  (Don’t get me started on my many, many thoughts about 13 Reasons Why), some people have the true belief that their existence is causing pain for those they love.

In the past, I blamed others for these thoughts as well as thinking the world would be a brighter place without my darkness. However, as I’ve aged, In those moments, my thoughts are not about what the world has done to me, it’s about what I’ve done to the world around me. Maybe it is slightly selfish in the fact that my thoughts centralize around me, but my intention is to better the lives of the ones I love the most.

“I’ve always felt like a burden to my family since I was a kid. I truly believe that my husband should’ve chose another wife who was full of joy and never would put him through the worry and hell that I’ve put him through. I believe that I will cause my kids more trauma throughout their life by being who I am than I would in ridding myself from their lives in one fell swoop while they are too young to really remember me. While I have great friends, none of them would be forever changed by my absence.”

These are the lies that swirl around the depths of my mind when I can’t see the light.

I can be greatly logical in my thinking, and after a few years of intermittent counseling, I can ground myself enough to know that when this happens, I must say something. Even if I can’t fully verbalize what it is I’m thinking, I can say to my husband “I’m not really OK,” and he knows that action needs to be taken.

This time, I was ready to take extreme action.

I packed my bag, kissed my husband goodbye at the locked door on the HOPE wing, and was shown to my room.

All of my personal belongings that I had packed were confiscated for inspection. No phone. No tablet. No contact with the outside world.

No strings, nothing with alcohol in it, no medications of any kind.

While I had my own private room, there was no shower curtain, no comfy bed dressings, and no sharp pencils.

After settling into my near empty room, I was submitted to a “skin check.”

A nurse had me strip down to nothing. I was completely naked. Exposed.

Vulnerable.

Every scar, bruise and discoloration were questioned and noted.

All of me was laid out before a stranger who didn’t trust me, yet wanted to help me.

Finally clothed and fetally curled up on my noisy bed, a different nurse peaked in and brought my lunch. I could eat in peace, but was urged to come out to the open room for dinner.

Dinner time came, and my clouded eyes stayed down as I sat down for my scrumptious hospital dinner (sarcasm for those who missed it). I didn’t know if the patients talked to one another, or if I was supposed to sit silently eating food off my plastic spork.

Around the table, the ladies started asking me what my name was and told me theirs. As usual, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers.

Group session was later on that night where we had to state positive things about ourselves, set positive goals for the night, and vow to safety.

Given my ineffective Ambien, I resigned to my bed for a mostly sleepless night. Surprisingly, I didn’t miss my phone at all. I missed having a clock to track my time.

The only clock was at the end of the hallway.

Each hour, I would peak my head out and see how much longer I had to stay in my room.

Each room had a door within a door that looked like something that would be down the through the looking glass in Alice in Wonderland. This trick door was cracked at night so the nurses could do their hourly checks without waking the “clients.”

I forgot that we weren’t referred to as patients.

The next day, I went through the group activities, sat through the clergy talk as he struggled to relate God’s word to our situation, and got to know the ladies a bit more.

During our group movement time, we banged on a drum to sound out our feelings to the group. Mine was “sad-mad.”

I had been there for over 24 hours and the psychiatrist hadn’t seen me. This infuriated me because I felt like they were discarding me and that I was unimportant. I was also sad because, ya know, depression.

We then went out into the hallway to throw around these foam balls while getting to know each other’s names. I really wanted to just sit still, but as we moved and giggled, I literally felt parts of my brain that had been inactive for a while, light up. It was a strange sensation.

My husband came for a visit, then it was dinner time and group session time all over again.

I did get to see the doctor after all, and was given a book and a new prescription which was supposed to help me sleep.

It didn’t, so I cracked open the book, and vigorously went through the first 50 pages completing the exercises along the way.

Having physical injuries in the past, I was no stranger to physical therapy. I finally came to the realization that my mind was in need of physical therapy if I was going to make strides toward healing.

Instead of taking it slow, I devoured the next 100 pages along with assignments and turned them into the doctor at the end of the day. I had told him the evening before that I wanted to go home as soon as possible. He just smiled and nodded, and I said, everyone says that, huh?”

“Yep.”

After turning in my assignments, he said “So, about going home early, I think we may be able to get you home on Monday. We have to get you some sleep first, though.”

I slept six hours that night, but not without getting to know the ladies a bit more.

Bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, extreme general anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, alcoholism – labels we all had prescribed to us.

However, I got to know them by their first names, careers, family situations, and personalities.

We joked around about being in a mental health facility – some being repeat offenders. We colored, talked about our medications, upcoming vacations, and favorite restaurants.

I got to peel back yet another layer of stigma that had been ingrained in me about mental illness, and see each woman as living, breathing human beings with real lives, real thoughts, and real struggles.

Being next door to the geriatric mental health wing, we could hear the screams and disruptions from patients fighting off delusions and hallucinations, and felt a little fear, but mostly sadness because we knew how real that person’s thoughts were to them.

We all formed a bit of a bond, unlike most patient client groups that grace the HOPE wing; at least that is what we were told.

We watched TV together, told funny stories about our lives, and encouraged each other through our darkest thoughts.

I tear up thinking about these women because I would probably never befriend them in my normal life, but in our little safe corner of the world, they each impacted my life because they made me realize that I’m not alone and not defined by my illness but rather a someone who has an illness.

I don’t go up to people and say: “I’m Fatima, and I’m Bipolar.”

I am not defined by an illness. You are not defined by an illness.

You are not cancer, you are not hyper-tension, you are not diabetes, you are not ADHD, you are not dyslexic -No. You may deal with these things, and God help you if you do, but you find your truth and you lay it out there. You find what and who you truly are and you own it -you declare it.

 I am Fatima. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and creatively old soul, and I’m training my crippled mind to grow stronger as I deal with a disease called Bipolar Disorder that often gives me symptoms of overwhelming sadness, irritable anxiety, and panic attacks as well as rarely giving me symptoms of high energy and impulsivity. 

Even if all of these titles are stripped from me, and I’m left with nothing else in this world, I can cling to this truth – The Truth. I am a daughter of the Most High. I am seen. I am heard. I am ultimately healed, even if I only see it in eternity. I am protected, redeemed, free – I AM LOVED.

While I still have two or three more posts to finish my 30 post truth challenge, I have found so much healing and support through this journey.

I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of messages and comments that have been shared with me, and I have seen each one even if I haven’t responded yet. Thank you for seeing my journey of truth, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing pieces of your journey with me. I’m grateful for your honesty, and impressed by your bravery.

May the God of all peace, wisdom, and understanding surround your heart today and each day moving forward.

I’ll bring the coffee next time.

Until we meet again my friends,

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The Problem with Unprocessed Grief part 3

It became a wound that never healed, and would often fester and overflow with infection causing me to have outbursts of deep depression and panic attacks. It caused me to lose all sense of direction in my life.

I strive to conclude my thoughts on unprocessed grief tonight.

I’ve taken you through the morning and following days of my father’s death through my eyes.

I broke down after recalling my last words to my father.

I’ve recounted my vicious battle with anorexia and bulimia and my darkest depression through most of high school.

Tonight I wish to conclude this chapter on my thoughts about unprocessed grief.

Leaving you in my junior year of high school, starving for perfection; starving to fill the hole in my heart. Starving to feel the hole in my heart. I started my senior year with a new boyfriend.

He was nice, and to be honest, I fell in love with his family more than I did him. I had known them for several years already, but I got to get the inside scoop on how they interacted.

I hadn’t been a part of a nuclear family since I was five years old, so naturally, I didn’t know how they worked. I found them fascinating like a strange life form. It was something that I liked to step back and poke with a stick.

Having a mom and dad who loved each other and were on the same team baffled me. The dynamics between siblings was a whole new world to me. (Truthfully, I still don’t get this one).

It was a nice change and learning experience for me. I was able to talk to this boyfriend unlike I could my last one. I began to process all that I had dealt with, and began to consider my grief.

Like most high school sweethearts, we moved on, and I began college. This was a new start for me with new people who didn’t know my past.

They say that college is where you truly find your tribe, and I wouldn’t say that was my experience at first, but I certainly found many friends and experiences in which brought me great joy.

I chose community college because I wasn’t ready to leave home, and the price was much more satisfactory. I stayed there far longer than most do, much longer than it is intended for.

I had no plan for my life.

When I was a child, my dad had bought me this human body anatomy set. It was similar to a puzzle, but it was small model of a human body with all of the plastic organs to assemble together.

See, I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember.

My dad often found his copy of Grey’s Anatomy in my bedroom, because I loved to read about the human body. I even considered the Cambridge Student’s Programme for teenage students for early an early medical introduction.

When my father had his surgery at Duke, I enjoyed talking with the doctors and nurses, trying to glean as much information as I could.

However, when I started college, I decided I wanted to study law.

By the end of my first semester, I did not.

The next few semesters were met with confusion and low grades.

I took classes ranging for anatomy and physiology to dialects and voice for the stage. I didn’t have a guiding voice to give me advice or direction. No one to remind me what was always my true interest.

I started dating my now husband during our third year of college. His drive and ambition was inspiring, and I started to get myself together.

I once again resumed my headway toward a career in medicine, and committed to a pre-med major. I finally moved on from community college to a state university, and excelled in my bio and chem classes. Physics was the worst class I took out of nearly 200 credit hours that I took over the course of my college career.

About half way through my semester, my depression plummeted as well as my grades.

I started skipping classes and sleeping in late. I hadn’t found a sleep aid that kept me from my near nightly panic attacks.

Most nights, i muffled my sobs in my pillows so not to attract attention from my roommates.  Several times I would end up calling my now husband who would more often than not come over in the middle of the night and hold me until  my crying gave way to slumber. He would then sneak out before the sun to get ready for his job that started at sunrise.

The semester ended, and I was on academic probation with the potential of losing all financial aid.

Throughout all of this time, one thing remained the same; I led worship on a regular basis and thoroughly enjoyed music and singing. I met with an academic advisor at a local christian college to see if their worship arts program would be something I would be interested in.

Too expensive and adding too many semesters to my college career, I chose to take some music and theatre classes at the university that I was already at.

Reluctantly giving up on my medical dreams, I fell deeper in love with music and the theatre in general.

I found my tribe.

I decided to tailor my degree so that I would have music, dramatic performance and production, dance, stage design, and Christian religious studies. I even landed a paid worship internship at a large local church I had been attending.

With a few years of experience, and this type of education, I was setting myself up for a career in worship ministry.

While I was happy with all of that, and finished each semester on the Chancellor’s and Dean’s lists for receiving a 4.0, my depression and anxiety were off the rails.

I was completely miserable, and felt adrift.

Struggling greatly with suicidality, my future husband convinced me to finally reach out to a counselor.

I saw one at the university, and I cried like a baby when I told her that I just didn’t want to live anymore. She gave me the option to get into a facility, to which I naturally declined.

Having the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality, I decided that I could get my junk together on my own.

Fortunately, the church where I was interning at had a counseling center with a sliding scale on their prices.

There, the realization of my unprocessed grief surfaced.

I was angry with my dad. I was angry with my mom. Most of all, I was angry with myself.

Part of my depression was caused by my anger being turned inward. The other part was PTSD, but I’ll talk about that later.

The pain of losing of parent so young is something I could not process. For one, I had no help to do so. I couldn’t make sense of the pain because I never left a state of shock.

It became a wound that never healed, and would often fester and overflow with infection causing me to have outbursts of deep depression and panic attacks. It caused me to lose all sense of direction in my life.

It caused me to be afraid of commitment. I was sure that as soon as I gave myself fully to anything that I would have the rug pulled out from underneath  me, and I simply could not handle that. To this day, I still have issues with trying something new because I just know that something is going to go wrong. (It never does)

I regret giving up on medicine, and hope to God I one day get a chance to redeem myself. However, every time I learned more about the human body, every time I looked a slide of different cancer cells, saw their complexity, saw the intricate, surprising beauty; I saw my daddy.

I would think about seeing patients and inevitably see my father’s weak face, and I would run from it.

There are still levels of grief that I have yet to process.

Not having him there for my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children; these events, as joyous as they were, felt slightly incomplete.

Last year was the 14th anniversary of my father’s death. My grief overwhelmed me.

As I walked down the stairs at home and into the living area, I was hit with the realization that I had lived more of my life without him in it than I had with him in it.

That wound opened wide, and I mourned unlike anytime before. The rawness of his absence was greater than it was immediately following his death. My husband was at work, as was my mother, but I could not be alone. My dear mother-in-law came to keep me company because I couldn’t be left alone with that kind of pain that day.

I’m still processing my grief, and probably will until I meet him again in heaven. But I am processing it.

I am healing.

The problem with unprocessed grief is that it slowly infects your body, heart, and mind. It affects your decisions. It affects your relationships. I affects your world view, and perspective of God (if you believe in God).

Since losing my dad, I’ve lost a beloved aunt, and my dear grandparents who I cannot talk about without crying. But because of my experience with the grief from my father’s death, I’ve been able to work through the grief of losing those other great loves of my life.

Until tomorrow my friends,

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Sticking to My Word

30 days is an awfully short time to let a lifetime of dealing with mental illness and events that contributed to it come out.

I committed to writing 30 posts in April, and I’ve only missed one. I will be making it up really soon.

Yesterday’s post took a lot out of me. It was hard going back to those few days. I haven’t written them out before or really even talked about them in great detail all at once.

I’m still a bit sleep deprived, so I’m not firing on all cylinders, but reliving those few days caused me mental fatigue and sadness throughout the day today.

I want to crack open my heart and my mind to allow more of my story to leak out, but I just can’t tonight. 30 days is an awfully short time to let a lifetime of dealing with mental illness and events that contributed to it come out.

Thanks for the love, support, and just for reading.

Until tomorrow, friends,

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