This is becoming my journal to good health physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have been on a wild journey the past year and a half and I have to say that I have learned so much about myself, my family, my friends, faith and my sweet Jesus. I will start at what I consider the beginning: Alaska cruise 2013. Here we are at the Musher Camp overlook. It was a great day, but I was so tired it was very difficult to enjoy a lot of what we did.
We had moved from our home of 13 years the month prior to leaving, two weeks to be exact. I was finishing schooling the girls, driving them to activities and managing the home as usual as well as painting the rooms and emptying boxes so we could be moved in prior to this cruise we had planned. But I was also finding myself to be more and more exhausted over simple tasks, forgetful and as always, wacky female issues. This woman in this picture was tired...physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I look at this picture, I feel sad. That is such a fake smile. I know what this woman is feeling, thinking, hiding behind those glasses so as not to alarm anyone how exhausted she truly is. Why? because I have to keep up. It's my job...or so I put that pressure on myself. I had to be actively involved in whatever the girls were to a point that I was in leadership roles on top of homeschooling, managing a home, moving and helping my man at his office. Life had gotten out hand for this lady...and there were days she felt so overwhelmed, but refused to admit how much she needed rest, peace, help.
At this time, I did not like what I looked like at all. I felt gross and had determined I would always be large due to my female issues. But deep down, I prayed God would heal my body. Not to give birth, as once was the case. But to be able to enjoy my family and not grow weary in small tasks.
My family was my everything. I poured into them all I had and I felt that was what a good mom did. I felt a "good" Christian woman needed to serve on multiple boards to be sure she was serving God in the most effective way. Making sure she was in the mix and not just "sitting" on the sidelines letting others make decisions. I actually felt it had to be me. But what the picture above does not show is that this lady was spent and had very little left over to give to her family. I was on empty.
Upon arriving home from Alaska, we all learned just how much that was true. I experienced my first severe panic attack during church that Sunday, sitting in a pew with fellow believers. I sat there feeling like if I didn't get out I was going to die. I got up, went to the bathroom where I was sure I was having a heart attack. I couldn't calm down. I didn't take my phone so I could not call my man of all times! So I waited for someone to walk in that knew me. I sat and sat as lady after lady walked in, looked at me, said nothing, walked back out after using the restroom. I was stunned at how little interaction there was in the restroom at a church we had attended for 7 years. But then, that is the negative side of going to a large church. I waited for 20 minutes before my help arrived in the form of a dance mom of Rachel's student. She got my family, we left, called my parents and we all sat in my living room checking my blood pressure and trying to get my mind to calm down. But I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't stand being alone. I couldn't stand having people too close though. It was odd. I was super sensitive to quiet as well as too loud. It appeared my nervous system was on overload and I had to sit back and wait it out.
After a doctors visit, which my parents took me to, I started hormone replacement for perimenopause and some low dose blood pressure medicine to take the edge off the anxiety as I was told my blood pressure was anxiety related not due to hypertension. I was ruled out that I had diabetes, heart disease, all things I was sure I was dying from in the midst of these irrational moments. I can't explain what goes on in your mind when irrational thoughts take place. But I do know I have a new appreciation for people who struggle with mental illness. Anxiety, depression, etc, are no laughing matter. You can't stop your mind from thinking no matter what you do. And those thoughts are relentless. I spent two weeks unable to leave my home without someone else driving me. My parents came to pick me up daily and make me walk with them to burn off adrenaline and get fresh air. Those talks and walks were the best medicine ever! My husband picked up helping with the girls activities and around the house with no complaints. The girls did whatever they needed to in order to keep the house running. The torch was passed to them at this time for a brief season and I have to say it was good to see they could do it. But I spent many days in tears over nothing. It was a dark place I never want to return. The only hope I had was my faith in Christ. What calmed me was when Matt would read scripture with me, pray with me or if I was listening to praise music. And for those who don't know me well, watching Pooh with my girls and coloring also helped my brain to relax and allow me to sleep. But if I was up, I was pacing, fearful and down right scary. My parents would drive over to take me out for a walk and then take me back to their house while Matt worked. This lasted longer than I hoped but soon I felt the meds were kicking in and I could tackle some things on my own.
We opted for me to not take an antidepressant at that time and see if hormones helped as we felt everything was brought on by the hormone imbalance. I had never experienced anything like this prior to perimenopause. So instead, I found a new way of eating that works for me and allowed me to lose 40 pounds fairly quickly. I felt better than I had in years and I actually was in pictures again. Something I usually tried to hide from.
This journey has weighed heavily on my body, mind and spirit. However, I feel it has weighed equally heavily on my sweet man and girls. It is tough to not know what to expect when you wake up each morning and look at your wife. It has to be scary to see your mom crying nonstop over nothing and curl up on the bed in a fetal position asking you to sit with her until she falls asleep or Daddy gets home. That is tough stuff. But I'm grateful for a family that loves me enough to walk this path with me and help me realize just how blessed and loved I truly am. That is something I think as women we sometimes loose sight of in the midst of our daily tasks. We start to feel invisible.
This family has grown stronger as a result of my struggles. We have had to look at the things in our life and decide what matters most and what can we let go...activity wise, relationships, etc. That is hard to do. But if there are things in life that are so draining and you don't have it to give, you have to do what is best for your immediate family. So I've lost some friendships in the process. I've had to let go of what I want and learn to follow only what God brings to me. I have laid down my need to be in charge of what the girls are doing all the time and trust God to guide them as we have trained them to go to Him for guidance. I've stepped back and have seen them soar. I think God needed to break me to allow me to see that my family doesn't "need" me or the little things I do. My family "wants" me to be there and to be a part of their world when I am able. But they also want to be able to do things and share later. That is huge for me! I know it is splitting hair in a sense, but truly a need mentality puts me in the driver's seat. It means they can't function without me which brings a ton of weight (hence my weight gain) along with pressure galore! But to be wanted there is so precious. There are not adequate words to express how blessed I was at this revelation by God during this time. I don't need to do all that other moms do to be the good mom, wife, Christian woman. I just need to act on what God lays before me and allow my heart to lead me in the choices I make daily instead of a check list of obligations.
And you know what? I'm having more fun with my girls than I have in a long time because I'm happier. I'm peaceful because I'm setting healthy boundaries around what God has placed on my heart each day/week. When I step out of His plan, I relapse with panic, fears, health issue.
But when I sit at the throne of Grace daily and ask for His plans to be revealed and I obey that plan that day...well, there is perfect peace and I have enough energy to get through the activities and enjoy my family in the evening to boot. Those days I don't listen are harsh still. I am learning as I go. This is definitely a journey...not a race. I see where God is leading and I am listening. I'm beginning to feel that menopause is a time of slowing down to take a long look at what you focus on and readjust as needed. And if you don't do it, you will be given another chance to learn the same lessons until you do slow down, seek God, obey His plan in your life, tell others no to things that you no longer can do and let others help you.
So if you don't see me at meetings, church events, girls activities, you can be assured I spent some time doing what I needed to that day and am preparing to give my all to God first, family second. And the fruit of that is beautiful, no matter how bumpy the road getting there has been.