Walking the Path of Parenting (Anxiety Edition)

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My first born began his middle school life this morning and I am a mess. My chest is tight, I can’t seem to sit still and forming a coherent thought seems to be out of the question. Some of my freak out stems from small things like, “Will he get on the right bus this afternoon?” or “Will he lose his lunch bag on the first day?”

Then there is the big one: This is middle school.
This is the time of puberty, awkwardness and finding a place to belong. Flashes of my own experience overtake me as I worry for him. Of course, I am prone to be anxious–enough to warrant a prescription for Xanax (swallowing one is not out of the question today). J has inherited this anxiety from me, but He seemed less nervous than his mother this morning as I sent him off into the world.

I’ve actually been having sporadic panic attacks about this upcoming school year all summer. Even spent some time looking up online schools. This is what I try to do. What just about every parent wants to do. Protect my kids at all costs. Protect them from physical harm, yes, but also from the pain of rejection, loneliness and a broken heart.

But here is what I am having to remind myself today: I am not meant to hide him from the world. I can’t. The world is a scary and dangerous place, especially the small world of middle school. It’s brutal out there.
But it’s also beautiful. Glennon Doyle Melton (Momastery) calls it brutiful. A bit of both harsh and lovely, pain and joy. It’s risky.

“But sometimes risk doesn’t leave us empty handed. Sometimes as a result of setting out into the brutiful world we find great love, beauty, friendship, and wisdom. Sometimes the rewards of risk don’t leave us wrecked. Sometimes we find our passion, our purpose, courage, connection, and comfort. Every good thing in our lives is a direct result of risk.

The rewards of engaging an unpredictable world are also great.

If no pain, then no love. If no darkness, no light. If no risk – then no reward. It’s all or nothing. In this damn world, it’s all or nothing.”

– See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2013/04/18/how-to-keep-our-babies-safe/#sthash.ZDYf7Y9I.dpuf

I hope that I am raising a son who risks. Who takes chances even in the face of fear. I hope that he finds the strength to move forward and discover the incredible person that he already is.

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On The Crook of Suicide

32200_1483682895135_1745734_nIn the wake of the apparent suicide of Robin Williams, I have been appalled by the vitriolic commentary aimed at him, and virtually anyone who lives with mental illness. There has also, blessedly, been many who have written with immeasurable grace about the darkness of depression, mental illness and suicide. This is not a post about what to do if you or someone you know is suicidal. There is plenty of information out there about that (although I will provide a few links at the end). No, this is personal. This is my story. This is about how my path has sometimes diverged into incredibly, dark–and nearly lethal–places.

Suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety have plagued me off and on since my childhood. I attempted suicide when I was 14. At 19, I was so close to ending my life that I voluntarily walked into a facility where I stayed for five days. After intense therapy and prescription medication, I stabilized and did well for many years. Depression was still a constant companion but for a long time I wasn’t wishing I was dead. Then 2001 hit. My inner world seemed to match the outside world at the time. I was rediscovering many hard things that happened to me as a kid, my relationships were in shambles and so was my soul. Not only did I consider killing myself, I begged God to take me out.

I remember at a young age believing the world would be a better place without me in it. That I was a mistake, an accidental blip on the human timeline. There are a myriad of reasons people attempt to or succeed in taking their lives but this was my reason. I wanted to correct a wrong. I was trusting the voice that said I couldn’t do anything right, that I was a hopeless case, far too broken to be fixed. The longer I listened to that voice, the louder it became and the more “logical” the option of suicide seemed. I believed that I would be doing my loved ones a favor. In the midst of the sickness, I believed I loved them so much that if I ended my life they would be able to be happy. I don’t remember it ever being about ending the pain. I was sure, in my hurting mind, that I deserved the suffering, but they didn’t.

And even, as recently as, early this year I fought back the beginnings of those whispers. Thankfully, I recognized them early, sought therapy, and tweaked my medicine. Most importantly, I have an incredible community who have loved me in and through the darkness.

Obviously, as evidenced by the sad passing of Robin, no one is ever totally out of the woods with mental illness. There is no magic formula that works for everyone. Not only do we have to be on guard with a storehouse of helping tools, we need the people in our lives to speak up when they see us sinking. We need the stigma of mental illness vanquished. We need to accept that some of us need medication and that’s okay!

If you or someone you love is struggling with suicide, please hear me.

You are not alone.
You are not too broken to fix.
You are needed.
You are loved.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or visit the website here.

This is a great Ted Talk on the stigma of depression.