Happily Ever After

Us then and now.  9 years later.  9 years of growing more in love with each other every day.  9 years of working through heart wrenching challenges together.  9 years of hiking and chasing sunsets and looking for beautiful new places to explore together.  It's hard to remember what life was like before we had each other, and I'm thankful it feels that way.  

I've been really emotional lately.  This morning, I cried to Kyle that when we were married, it seemed like that should have been the start of our "happily ever after," but now it's hard to know what happily ever after even means.  In pure Kyle wisdom, he said, "True happiness comes through struggle, so that means we are living our happily ever after."  I realized that our relationship is rock solid, BECAUSE of the tears we've shed, the heartfelt prayers we have prayed, and the heavy trials we have faced hand in hand.  Our life together is nothing like what I imagined it would be, but our love is sweeter than what I ever imagined it could be.  






Seeing God in the Pain

Last Friday, Saturday, and Monday, three separate things happened that led to a bout of severe depression on Tuesday, the same day we left for camping for a few days at Lionhead.  We got there, and I was so sad.  I had such little energy.  I just wanted to sit in my chair on the beach and cry while I watched my family play and have fun.  In the evenings after getting our kids to bed, Kyle and I would sit around the fire and talk while I cried, but the depression still wouldn't break.  On the evening of the second night, there was the most BEAUTIFUL sunset, and it suddenly lit this fire inside of me.  I pulled out my camera for the first time that trip and began trying to capture the beauty.  Then that night there were the most incredible stars lighting up the whole entire sky.  And the next day there were beautiful trees, rocks, and water.  It all kept filling my cup until I was able to fully enjoy the rest of the time I had with my family.  I will never understand why things happen the way they do, and I will probably never be thankful to feel such deep emotions, but I will always be thankful for the little moments when I think I see God in the pain.  This was one of those powerful moments.  (Not to leave out Kyle and all of his patient kindness when I am struggling.)


You're Here for a Reason

 A little story read by Brooklyn for anyone who might need to hear this message today.

One of the very few memories I have of the first time in the hospital last year was when I was getting ready to go home.  One of the mental health specialists gave me this sweet book to read to my kids.  

Brooklyn said it best at the end of the video, "You are exactly loved too!"


Doing Hard Things

 If I had to name this chapter of my life, it would probably be "Doing Hard Things." But each hard thing I do adds to my list of things I am slowly overcoming and how I am healing.

Yesterday in counseling, we talked about the things that happened between July 16th and August 5th last year. Things that have been haunting me this last while and that have brought back such strong emotions and memories.

We talked about Glacier National Park. How it was when my husband and I got home from that wonderful week that everything broke. For so long last year, I wondered what it was about Glacier that caused this to happen. Did I not get enough sleep that week and that caused me to collapse emotionally? Was I too physically active and that somehow affected a certain vitamin level or the effectiveness of my medicine or something else that caused such a strong intensity of anxiety coming home? Did I not eat enough food or drink enough water and that led to those fateful months? What was it about Glacier that made all of this happen? Because in my mind, they were surely connected.

Now I can recognize some huge triggers, along with months of less intense anxiety before that was slowly wearing me down, that I believe caused everything to spiral down the way it did. But I still have had such a strong connection in my mind to Glacier and the subsequent anxiety/depression that led to so many hospitalizations and trauma. 

I have avoided looking at pictures or really remembering the beautiful trip to Glacier at all, because it has been too painful. But yesterday, we decided it was time for me to remember, time for me to help my mind disconnect what happened in Glacier as the cause of all the following pain, which meant finally looking at the pictures of that week and remembering all the good. 

I did it. I looked. At first it hurt so bad seeing our carefree happiness and all the incredible beauty, not knowing what was just around the corner. It hurt seeing how something so good could be followed by the most painful experience of my life just 2 weeks later.  

But it was also healing.  Remembering what felt like the most magical week.  Remembering how incredible it was to see the most beautiful sights with my favorite person in the whole world.  Remembering how we connected and grew closer being together for that time alone without our kids.  Remembering so many little details that simply brought joy.

It's going to take time to overcome the pain, but for now, I'm making the conscious choice to remember the good.


August 1

August 1st.  A day that is seared into my memory forever.  A day that just the thought of it coming again this year brought incredible fear.  A day that I dreaded and wished it wouldn't have to come at all.

The day last year that I left my family because I was in so much pain and didn't know how to go on, the day that Kyle somehow broke through the darkness and took me to get help, the day that I went to the hospital for the first of three times in four months, the day that I felt like I was living in a nightmare and could never be okay again, the day that my life felt shattered and irreparably broken forever.

At the beginning of this summer, I was completely terrified for that day to come.  I cried to a friend explaining how I was feeling, and she suggested planning something fun for the day, so I had something to look forward to instead of being so afraid.  I loved that idea, so Kyle took the day off work, and we made plans to kayak the Coeur d'Alene River together as a family.

Last week, I cried every day.  I woke up every morning with my feet shaking in terror.  I felt like I was constantly reliving all the pain of everything I can remember from July to November of last year (I actually can't remember chunks of time and some of it is just a blur like an actual nightmare).  Most of all, I remembered August 1st.  It felt like if that day came, everything that happened last year would happen again, and I wouldn't be able to handle it this time.  I remembered details of things that I hadn't thought about in such a long time and remembered new things that had previously been blocked from my memory.  I tried to keep reminding myself that it was just a day like any other day, that I'm doing so much better now than I was, that we have so many more tools in our toolbelt than we did before, but still the trauma seemed to overpower me.

And then today came.  We spent the whole day together as a family.  We had such a great time swimming, exploring, kayaking, and finding the beauty all around us.  As scared as I was leading up to this day, I knew that if I could make it through, it would be one more triumphant moment in my journey of healing.  I still have a long way to go and more to overcome, but today was a really good day.



 Triggers are a very interesting thing.  This summer has been truly magical for so many reasons that I PROMISE I will share later (in fact, I'm so excited to share them).  But for now, I want to share this.  Every once in a while, I stumble on a trigger that kicks me to the ground.  

A couple of weeks ago, we had plans to go camping as a family.  It was when we got home from camping at Glacier last summer that everything crashed down, so the thought of going camping again terrified me.  I couldn't get past the thought that everything I experienced last year was going to happen again because of camping.  I cried and felt such great anxiety leading up to our trip.  I talked to my counselor and Kyle about it which helped so much.  We were able to go forward with our camping plans, and everything went so well (despite me getting COVID the second day and feeling so sick that we had to come home a few hours early on the third day).

Then, Kyle was supposed to go on a father's son campout.  Being without Kyle for a night is a HUGE trigger for me.  It didn't used to be like this, but now it scares me so much because of a few past experiences with him being gone and bad things happening.  He understands me more than anyone else and knows what to do when I am struggling, so it's so incredibly hard and scary to have him gone.  We are slowly working on this in little, tiny, manageable baby steps, and I am doing everything I can to keep up the hope that we can overcome this huge hurdle.  Thankfully (?) he got COVID as well and wasn't able to go, which was a huge blessing in disguise, because I was still recovering from COVID too and was not mentally in a place to be able to handle facing a fear of that magnitude.

Then came the day that was one year since we got home from Glacier, the evening last year when I had a massive panic attack and that was the start of months of struggle.  I was so scared of this day coming.  What if it all happened again?  What if everything repeated, and I wasn't able to handle it this time?  Nothing bad ended up happening, and I gained confidence after making it through that day and night that I'm okay, despite some bumps in our road still.  And I can continue to be okay for some future dates that will inevitably bring back painful memories.

Finally, last night, I was going through some old cards and letters I've saved for years.  I decided to add the hearts from so many people that I saved from when I came home from the hospital last August.  Reading through them, remembering what that time was like, remembering how far we were from finding a solution at that point, remembering all the love and hope that was shared, remembering my reaction to seeing my house completely covered in hearts when I got home, it all washed over me, and I feel very emotional about it today.  

It hurts seeing what our life is now compared to how it used to be.  It hurts seeing how very far I have to go in overcoming the trauma and pain of what these last 6 years but especially the last year have done to me.  As hard as it is at times, I am so thankful for Kyle, my kids, my tribe of people who would do whatever I need, and seeing my progress and how far I've come.  Who knows how long these triggers will keep appearing and taking my breath away as they punch me in the gut?  But I do believe I will be okay.  Somehow, some way, I will always be okay.

Photo credit to the amazing Brooklyn who is learning photography and rocking at it!


My Promise to God

Before we moved across the country to Post Falls, I was absolutely terrified.  What would people think of me?  I knew they would never know the "me" before severe depression and anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks, and that hurt me so terribly.  I wondered how I would explain to them who I really was but also what awful things I experienced nearly every day.  I knew I needed love and support so desperately, but I didn't know if I would find it in this new, unknown place.   

I didn't know what else to do besides pray, and boy did I pray fervently and often.  Eventually, I made a promise with God.  If He would provide me with the people I needed to love and support and help me through my darkness, then I would take EVERY opportunity I could to use my darkness to bless others.

God most certainly has provided me with the people I've needed, so I've done everything I can to hold up on my end of the promise.  Since moving here, I've had multiple opportunities to speak to several different groups of people about depression.  I've been able to have an article published in a worldwide magazine.  I've been able to start an unofficial non-profit for the psych unit of the hospital.  I've been able to share more on social media and have had a few opportunities to have posts that reached all around the world.  

This isn't meant to point at me at all.  It is meant to point at God and show what He can do with my brokenness to try to help others, both those who struggle with depression and those who don't.  

A few days ago, I found out about an opportunity to apply for a video aimed at helping those who struggle with depression and anxiety as well as those who support someone struggling.  At first, I read the requirements and thought it wasn't for me.  But yesterday, I couldn't get it off my mind no matter how hard I tried.  So I went for it.  I prepared my thoughts, which had to be condensed down into a 1-2 minute video (so hard to fit into that short time frame!), recorded the video with the help of Kyle late into the night last night, and submitted my application this morning.  Who knows if I will be chosen or not.  But at least I can say that I am still trying to uphold my promise with God.



 A lot of people have been asking me for an update on how I’m doing.  It’s too much to tell everyone individually, so here it is in a nutshell.  This is the best I could do to condense it.

After decreasing the medication again that I am trying to wean off of, I began to experience this terribly uncomfortable feeling of having a huge lump in my throat.  This had happened in the past and lasted for a very long time, I went to an ENT for it before, he couldn’t see anything wrong, nothing he suggested helped long-term, sometimes would be worse than other times, but I finally resolved to just deal with it as it seemed there was no other option.  But when things came crashing down last summer, I couldn’t handle this anymore, along with other pains I had been enduring with no solution for any of them (I tried 2 places of physical therapy, 3 chiropractors, massage, etc. with no improvement).  All of these symptoms finally got better when I went on some anxiety medication in the hospital, and I thought they were gone forever.  But when the throat issue came back again, this time was far worse.  I felt like I was choking, like I couldn’t breathe, like I could hardly swallow.  As a result, my anxiety soared through the roof, and this caused great depression.  I literally cried all the time.  I could hardly get out of bed.  I didn’t know how I could handle having this happen again and possibly lasting for a very long time with no ability to relieve it.  I went to an ENT again, he prescribed an antibiotic, and I went on my way desperately hoping it would help.  The days that followed, things did not improve and seemed to only get worse.  Then, other muscles in my body began to tense up and cause pain again, and my anxiety continued to increase.  I felt in my heart that the antibiotic was not going to do anything to relieve this problem and had a strong hunch that it was anxiety-related, so Kyle and I made the difficult decision to go back up on the anxiety medicine.  It was frustrating to take that step back, but within a day, the symptoms in my throat started to improve drastically, as well as the other pain and tightness in my body.  There were other triggers that seemed to contribute to this storm of anxiety, causing it to continually grow worse until it was getting out of control, so we had to do what we could to help me reach a stable place again.

I met with my primary care doctor a couple of days ago, and we decided to try a very low dose anxiety and depression medication on top of what I’m already taking to see if that will relieve some of my anxiety and depression as I try to go off the medication again in the future.  

I am still depressed.  I still cry a fair bit, I feel very tired, I spend more time in bed or on my phone than I would like, I’m hardly productive at all, I get very easily overwhelmed, and I feel down on myself nearly every day, but I think my body is still trying to regulate from what happened.  I picked up my crochet hook again a few days ago after so many weeks of not being able to, so I know things are getting a little better.  I’ve had to say no a lot lately and do what I need to take stress out of my life the best I can, but I’m learning that’s okay.  I always knew that this was a marathon, not a sprint.  I just wish we could consistently take steps forward instead of ever taking steps back.  I'm desperately hoping things will get better soon, so I can make this a fun summer for my kids.


Hard Time

 This week has been indescribably hard. Last Saturday, I began to experience some symptoms that are irritating, uncomfortable, and very anxiety-provoking for me, symptoms that I had previously experienced and sought every form of help I could think of with no relief, symptoms that contributed to my breaking point last summer because I just couldn't handle the pain and discomfort any longer without knowing how to make it better. These symptoms went away for a while and just suddenly and randomly came back. I've spent so much of my week in bed with Garrett by my side, watching movies or playing dumb word games on my phone to distract myself. I've cried more times than I can count. I feel physically sick from all the stress. I've struggled eating again and have lost a few pounds already. I've had no desire to do anything, including my hobbies. Kyle has called several times each day just to check on how I'm doing. We clean together as a family before the kids go to bed every night because it's too overwhelming for me to do any of it during the day. Kyle and I spend our mornings and evenings together talking while I cry about my fears and pain. I've had to ask for help or back out of certain responsibilities because I'm not capable of doing them at the moment.

I'm frustrated. I'm scared. I'm overwhelmed. I'm seeking help but not feeling hope that it will really do anything. I'm trying to keep my anxiety at bay the best I can until we can figure out what we are going to do about all of this. 

But most of all, I'm continuing on with the help of so many people who help me bear these heavy burdens so that I don't have to do it alone.



Things I am sloooowly learning or trying to learn:

How everyone can have a place in the church of Jesus Christ, even when they are broken or weary or have so many unanswered questions about why things happen in life the way they do, and also that there isn't some certain mold to fit into to belong.

How part of praying is accepting God's will, even if that includes enduring literally unbearable pain instead of Him taking it away, and how sometimes God's answers to prayers come through other people helping to make the pain more bearable.

How one desperate, seemingly unanswered prayer last summer doesn't cancel out all of the other many answered prayers.

How my effort really is enough, even though it looks far different now from how it used to.

How to love myself completely, even who I am now compared to who I thought I would be and how my life would be at this point, even as someone who is trying to heal and very slowly making progress, even who I am compared to others who seem far greater and more impactful in the world.

How to work with Kyle to do certain things together that are too hard or overwhelming for me to do on my own and how to figure things out together. Our many late night and early morning talks are paying off in helping me piece together in my mind the things that confuse and repeatedly hurt me.

How trauma is very real and heavily influences so many parts of my life right now but that it can be overcome in time through advances in therapy techniques and significant hard work and pain on my part when I am ready.

How to trust that, in time, Jesus Christ really can bind up broken hearts, not just other people's but mine.

I'm thankful for Kyle, my kids, my close friends, my amazing counselor, many church leaders, and others who offer their time, support, love, and lack of judgment during such a difficult time of trying to make sense of things that simply don't make sense. I cry a lot right now because so many things hurt in ways that I can't explain so that others can understand, but I'm trying to smile through the tears and keep hoping that my heart won't always hurt this bad.