Along the Broken Road

A Perpetual Work in Progress

Judgment: we are all guilty of it and we’ve all fallen victim to it at some point or another. Why? Unfortunately it seems that it’s part of our human nature to assume, to jump to conclusions, to believe we know about something that we actually don’t understand.

Even before I lost Ralf, I suffered from some minor anxiety. I would easily stress over things that I realize now were pretty silly. When I remember planning the wedding – OH MY GOD! I had a complete and total meltdown over the invitations being printed vertically instead of horizontally. I’m talking a full-blown temper tantrum in my car with tears and screaming and hitting the steering wheel. Over a piece of paper that most of our guests would end up throwing out and that cost next to nothing because we were putting the invitations together ourselves. Granted, it was a time of high stress, but in that moment I was losing sight of the bigger picture. What mattered was that I was going to be marrying my best friend and not a tiny detail that would likely go unnoticed by everyone other than me.

Since losing Ralf so quickly and unexpectedly, my anxiety has become significantly worse. Sometimes there is a trigger for feeling anxious, like getting in my car before work in the morning and realizing I’m low on gas. Other times, though, there is no single incident that sets me off. Of course, the anxiety I’ve always been prone to is now magnified by depression caused by grief and the sleep deprivation that comes along with parenthood. I often have a hard time being in large crowds of people without feeling like I am going to jump out of my skin. I can barely handle traffic. I am forgetful and I misplace my keys and my phone constantly. Some days it’s hard to simply function because I’m in such a fog.

I haven’t been diagnosed with an actual mental illness by a professional, and I believe my anxiety and bouts of depression are pretty “typical” or “expected” considering what I’ve been through. But now that I’ve become familiar with these feelings – it makes me so much more understanding of people who have battled with them their whole lives – even perhaps without a “reason” to.

How does this tie into judgment?

Unfortunately, mental illness is often accompanied by stigma. You’re expected to just “snap out of it” or “suck it up.” People who have that mindset don’t realize that a person who is truly suffering from anxiety or depression wants nothing more than to stop feeling that way. They don’t realize the enormous amount of effort it can take, and that effort is sometimes not enough. For me, I have to fight daily to stay positive and remind myself of all my blessings so that I don’t stay focused solely on the tragedy I’ve survived. I have to stay active. It really helps when I’m exercising regularly and eating clean. Speaking to a counselor and journaling are also helpful. When I do all of these things consistently, I am able to keep the negative feelings under control most days. Some people aren’t as lucky. Some people can’t shake them even when they take all these same actions in addition to medication.

I remember not long before Ralf passed, there were two firefighters in his department who took their own lives within months of each other. Both were young. Both were fathers. Some comments were made about how their actions were “cowardly” and that they should have at least wanted to keep living for their children. It seems like it should be that simple, right?

It’s not.

I have never been suicidal, so I can’t even begin to imagine the level of desperation a person must feel to want to give up on life. To actually believe that your existence is burdening those you love most and that they would be better off without you. It’s heartbreaking.

We shouldn’t speak in absolutes, and yes, there are cases where people are offered help and choose not to accept it. I’m talking about the ones who need and want the help but don’t know how to seek it. Who are scared of being mocked or told to “just deal.” The ones who hide behind what seems like a “normal” life but are actually stuck in a black hole of misery and unable to climb out.

They matter.

There is nothing “wrong” with a person plagued by mental illness any more than a person who is diagnosed with high blood pressure, or diabetes, or cancer, or any other physical ailment. Mental health is a real thing that deserves real compassion.

Now, I am going to contradict myself just a little and speak in absolutes:

We ALL are fighting inner battles.

We ALL have parts of ourselves that are sometimes difficult to acknowledge.

We ALL need help from time to time.

We are ALL a work in progress.

I suffer from anxiety. I have to fight through intermittent bouts of depression, which are fewer and further apart as more time passes. But I’m still a good person and there is nothing “wrong” with me. My anxiety is just one aspect of who I am; it does not define me as a person. Perhaps one of the most detrimental forms of judgment is the one we often cast upon ourselves. I am working on being more forgiving and understanding of myself, and I encourage you to do the same.

10 comments

  1. Amy

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I completely get it because I’m constantly battling a mental illness but have noticed improvement each passing day. It started with postpartum anxiety and depression when my baby was 5 weeks old, then once I stopped breast feeding when my baby was 5 months old I was diagnosed with generalized panic disorder. Seeing my therapist, I overcame panic disorder and now noticed symptoms appear 2 weeks before my period. I get how you constantly stay busy so you can distract yourself from any negative thoughts that want to pop up, haunt you and take the joy away from you. I sometimes find myself a little paranoid at in public when I am extremely exhausted. Anxiety is a struggle and others who don’t experience it think you can just snap out of it.. but it honestly takes time for your body and mind to heal from trauma. I’ve learned that running 2 miles every day helps. Eating healthy is a must. Also Avoiding sweets, caffeine and alcohol. I found a supplement which has helped with the depression, called evening primrose oil. I also take B12, Omega 3 and my daily vitamin. I love how you open up to others and express your experience very descriptive, it helps others and give those who struggle with mental illness encouragement to PUSH, Get up and Conquer this day! A day that we will never get back so why give in to the illness. I have 3 daughter’s and never want them to see me suffer with anxiety/depression.. don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect but as long as we know what we are dealing with, we can overcome the battle. Just don’t expect immediate results. We got this! You are a wonderful soul. Continue reaching out to others. God bless you and I will continue to pray that your days become brighter. Xo

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  2. Zuy

    So many will benefit from this post, so on point that is more of a great learning tool. Thank you for sharing May God continue to Bless you, Mason & Vinnie.

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  3. Thank you for writing about this subject that goes so very much unnoticed most of the time. As a person with GAD, generalized anxiety disorder I can relate. I have days where I can’t even contain myself. I am under medication, I try to eat healthy and I walk a lot, and with the Lords help I cope and go on. With my good days and the bad ones too. I function. But nobody really knows what we go through daily. Thank you again. Blessings to you and your little one. Your one heck of a lady.

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  4. Christy

    Thank you for this post. I suffer from anixeity as well and has gotten worse after I had my second child. Nice to read we aren’t alone! Stay strong Mama!

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  5. Bev Baker

    I listened to a podcast from James McDonald this morning that talks about this. It’s called “strength in every heartache”. He addresses feelings of anger, anxiety, impatience, emptiness that comes with trying to do things on your own. I also have had times of depression and anxiety during my life which have escalated in the past month since the sudden death of my brother. And it’s always when I’m relying on my own strength, actions, judgments that it’s the worst. When I can step back and give it back to God-realizing He has everything under control-it is greatly diminished. There is an app called “bible hub” that enables you to enter any word or subject (such as anxiety or depression) and it will pull up many verses related to it. You can also google James McDonald, podcasts, and listen to him speak about many topics. I hope you find this helpful. Much love. Thanks

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  6. Teri Carter

    Dearest Maeghan you have been through so much and it is expected that depression would be a reaction. I look at it as “situational sadness” that as time passes you will develop a way to restore yourself and come back from. You are forever changed and now appreciate those small things that perhaps you once overlooked. Look into perhaps you are now an Empath. Taking on others emotions and grief. I suffer from this and some of my feelings are the same as you mentioned. Continue to journal and do great things and trust in God as he gave you Ralf and will always provide refuge in your despair. Thank You for sharing 🙏

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