Suicide Prevention: Love & Hope

SUICIDE PREVENTION: LOVE & HOPE

Last week, we shared some of our story in hopes of helping someone, anyone, navigate mental health struggles and suicidal ideation. It’s real and horrible and so prevalent.

Let me share the most important part – THERE’S HOPE!

Now, please know I am extraordinarily sensitive to the fact that not everyone who experiences suicidal thoughts and attempts with a loved one (or who goes through it themselves) has this story to tell. Some suicide attempts are successful, and families are left with a tragedy to deal with, images permanently burned into their minds, feelings of “what if”, and incredible sadness. None of that is lost on me.

I want to impress upon anyone reading; however, that suicide PREVENTION is the subject here. It’s all about noticing the signs, listening and talking, getting help, catching it BEFORE a tragedy.

And there IS hope.

Two weeks ago, my daughter walked the aisle at church and fervently proclaimed her desire to be saved and baptized. This past Sunday, she was.

This child who, about 7 months ago, was hospitalized for suicidal ideation (with plans and talk of “not trusting herself anymore”), stepped into the baptismal waters with a smile on her face and Jesus in her heart.

In the last two weeks, she joined a student choir and started taking guitar lessons. She started curling and styling her hair beautifully. She twitters on the phone, twerks in the kitchen to annoy her daddy, and tells us how she’s ready to hurry up and go to bed so she can wake up the next morning and get ready to [insert fun thing she can’t wait to do here].

Her friends are god-fearing, fun-loving, and encouraging. She even likes a boy (God help us all!). She is surrounded by people who love and motivate her. A number of them (at least 25) turned up to either the church or the reception at our house afterward to support her and be there for her baptism.

Her horse is her love, and she’s eager to ramp up her skills. She counts the minutes until we are back at the barn, and she loves her barn folks so much. (I will be forever grateful to them for loving her and being there for us with no expectation, no judgment, and no giving up on her. JF, SS, and CD have our hearts forever, and we will fight you over them.)

THERE IS HOPE. If you’re going through hell, please keep going. You can get to the other side, it just takes patience beyond what you think you have (it’s in there!) and constant mindfulness that will no doubt exhaust you. Stay the course.

Reach out for help, and do not wait. Do not “hope” and do not “wish” it will all get better. Get busy. Make calls, be persistent, ask questions, read. Start fighting, and do not come out of the ring until everyone is deemed safe.

Take care of yourself, too. Breathe and pray, take hot baths and find a moment to go outside. Find like-minded people or those who have been through similar situations to commiserate with. Get therapy for yourself. Tell people you’re struggling, so they can pray for you and support you. You don’t have to share every detail, but telling people actually does help (even though I know you are totally inclined to keep it to yourself and “just get through it”…don’t.)

And if you have ever thought of God, even once, seek Him. If you don’t believe in God at all, consider it. Regardless of your thoughts or belief system, I can tell you firsthand that He is real. He gave us life and works on our behalf to sustain us. No matter where you are in your thoughts on God, I’m your girl if you ever want to sort them out. No arm twisting, and no brow beating from me. We’ll just sift through your thoughts. It is in God that we have hope.

Suicide prevention is everything. If you haven’t read our other posts, I urge you to go back and look. Like and share. Please. Help yourself and others be aware, empathize, and prevent a tragedy.

And lastly, know this…we (and other families who are struggling) are not out of the woods completely. Don’t let the smiles and the rodeo photos and the church going fool you. My girl still struggles inside, and it’s a constant point of discussion, requires constant checking in, and demands our constant attention. We talk, we make sure she makes the most of therapy sessions, and we monitor her medicine (currently being adjusted to solve a few problems we have encountered). When she is fragile, we stop what we are doing and we are there for her. When she calls, we answer. When she needs us, we go. We still have tough moments we don’t understand.

Pray for folks. Reach out. Keep them (us) in your heart. Learn. Listen. Love. And don’t stop. That’s how we prevent suicide, even when the ideation is strong.

Today, though, is Friday Adventure day. We’re looking forward to sharing this joy we’ve worked so hard to find and fought so hard to keep. I pray daily for her and that it will be a day of joy, free from mental health struggles or tears. Hopefully, today will be…and tomorrow, too.

Emotions In Check = Less Pain

I did something this week that I often have a hard time with…I kept my emotions in check. Yeah, it’s worthy of celebration, right?! Go, Me!

Follow me on this…you KNOW something to be true, but it takes life happening, experiencing hardship, and un-learning and re-learning, before you finally can DECLARE it. Well, here we are.

Stress manifests itself in my body. When tensions run high, I physically hurt. It happens in my neck and shoulders first, then I can feel it in my arms. My. Arms. Hurt. I get these weird hot spots all over, too, like little fireballs and knots under the skin (especially in my legs). If you run your hand over my leg, it makes me jump to graze one of the them. Ridiculous.

I know that now. I’m declaring it. I think because we can KNOW something and finally be able to DECLARE it, we can put it into practice. (What a concept, right?! Amanda, you don’t have to keep learning that lesson. Here it is. Just do it.)

So this week…I practiced keeping my emotions in check when I felt my body start to hurt. (Amanda, you know your body hurts when you’re stressed, so mitigate the stress BEFORE your body hurts too much. Eureka!)

In case you struggle with this, too, I’ll share what I did, so you can practice as well. We will practice together this lesson we have learned, KNOW to be true, and have DECLARED.

~ I made it stop. Yep, instead of following my urge to keep insisting, try to convince, make myself clear, I said, “I can feel myself starting to hurt because of this tension, and I don’t have the bandwidth to carry on this way, so I need a 15-minute break and can talk to you again in a bit.”

~ I made it stop again. After the 15 or so minutes had passed, the conversation started again, and the hurt ramped up. I said again, “Emotions are still running high, and I can’t mentally handle this right now, so I need another 20 minutes or so.”

~ I kept my voice calm and my responses reasonable. Y’all, I’m not asking for a trophy. I marvel at my own ability to have done this. I didn’t let myself get worked up and carried away. This may seem like a common, logical response to most, but it’s easier said than done for me.

~ I was right, and I knew it. Reminding myself that, up until that point, I had been wise, made informed decisions, and behaved according to principle helped me remember that the problem at hand was not mine. It was mine to then deal with, but I didn’t create it. Livin’ right with clean hands helps.

~ The thing I’m most proud of…I let it go…totally open-ended. Yes! Ms. Must Have A Solution Immediately spoke up and said, “I am not prepared to give you an answer to that right now. I’ll need time to think.” Look at me go!

~ I praised God through it. While I would have ordinarily prayed the “Why is this happening, God?” or the “God, please make this stop.” prayers, I instead thanked Him for all the good things I’m surrounded by. I’m in a place I once prayed to be, and I am so blessed. High emotion is fleeting. Blessings can remain. For all that is good around me, I am thankful.

I am so flawed and impatient, stubborn and emotional. Not for one second do I share having done any of this to brag. No high horse here! I’m a mess.

But heck, maybe I do need to brag. Maybe I need to stand up, pat me on the back, and clap for myself, because being able to not just KNOW that about me, but being able to DECLARE it, then put what I have learned into practice is huge.

You need to feel that way when you experience growth, too. We don’t give ourselves enough credit as we evolve and improve. I want to talk about that more. Let’s get into it.

Suicide Prevention: The Blame Game

If you’ve been following our story as part of Suicide Prevention Month, you’ve heard me mention the Blame Game.

I blamed myself.

I blamed the world.

I blamed myself.

I blamed teenage angst.

I blamed myself.

I blamed hormones.

I blamed myself.

Blaming myself seemed natural. I birthed her. I fed her and rocked her. I taught her to read. I was responsible for her health, her safety, her education. I was responsible for stablishing her moral compass, teaching her manners, building her compassion, her work ethic. All the things, right?!

My 14 year old who, in a matter of days, had gone from a “normal” teenager to a depressed, agitated, hallucinating, tic-ridden, crying mess told me she wanted to kill herself…and had come close to trying.

Where did I go wrong?

We have always been homeschoolers. Maybe it was that.

I insisted she clean up her room, do her laundry, clean her toilet. Maybe I was too hard.

Did I make her feel insecure? Did I leave her too much? Was there anything going on I didn’t know about (and oh my gosh, how could I not know?!)?

Here’s what learned… and after much crying and struggling…

Some mental health issues are hereditary. I realized there’s not much I can do about that. Tourettes (one of her diagnoses) is hereditary, as are provisional tics and even OCD and anxiety.

Some mental health symptoms may have existed for some time, perhaps since birth. She sucked her thumb, was late to potty train, was late on some behavioral milestones. She always preferred small spaces, she screamed when she was in a car seat, she could never stand still. I chalked it up to normal developmental stuff and kid quirks. Maybe they were signs.

Chemistry. Brain development. Environmental toxins. Past illnesses. All of these affect mental health. There are a zillion factors at play, most of which have nothing to do with me or my parenting.

Some questions don’t have answers, and mental health problems are rarely logical. I had to accept that there may never be answers to some questions. Some things just are. And hardest of all, my will to reason and apply logic…fruitless.

And most importantly…your kid is a completely separate human being from you. I am one person. My child is another. There is a limit to my responsibility. The rest is purely her – her body, her mind, her choices, her actions, her feelings, her behavior.

Of course, I blamed other things, too, not just myself. I blamed the world for being so twisted and “woke” and ridiculous and unscrupulous and brain washing. I tried to decide whether the covid pandemic had wrecked her, with all the vaccine madness, the closings, the stress we endured keeping our businesses open, people getting sick and dying. Was it friend drama? Was it social pressures?

It was none of that. It just was. It’s the cards we were dealt, and for whatever reason, our hand got flipped face up, and we had to figure out a playing strategy fast or fold… and folding wasn’t an option.

If you’re going through mental health struggles or, God forbid, suicidal ideation, you listen to me. Definitely address the obvious concerns first – was there an event that triggered this, why is this happening, do I bear any responsibility. But then you move on and start fighting.

Sometimes mental health challenges have no explanation. You did nothing. There are no logical conclusions. And sometimes, evil is at work. Believe it or don’t.

Just fight. Stay the course. Don’t give up.

Go find a place to scream. Seize a moment by yourself to cuss and raise hell and shake your fist in the air. Yell out how you hate it, how you’re sick of it, how you’re scared to death. Cry. Lift your loudest voice to God and ask Him, implore Him, to help.

Screw that job. Forget that meeting. Ditch that obligation. Don’t even think about fake smiling at that family event.

Wipe your face, take a few deep breaths, and get back in the fight. Put the blaming and why’s and the poor-me nonsense aside, and do whatever you have to do to keep your child alive.

It is natural for us to want to know why. It’s how we make sense of things. It’s easier for us to deal with whatever if we can identify it and put it in a box with a label. The Blame Game is futile, though, and only hinders your ability to fight.

Note: If there HASD been an event that triggered the mental health struggles you’re trying to manage, there is help for ANY AND ALL such events. If you do know who or what is to blame, there are solutions for addressing those. Please. Find help.

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be accessed by calling 988 (or texting).

Suicide Prevention: Listening

As we have attempted to bring to light suicidal ideation and prevention, we have focused on the details of our story. Yesterday, we emphasized the importance of listening to kids amidst telling about our own experiences. Here’s why…

Kids need someone they can trust. They are actually starving for it. And let me tell you, you can be the shiniest, happiest, most Christian, fun-loving, honest, open mom the world has ever seen, and your kids may not trust you.

Kids don’t want you to fix them…sort of. Oddly, kids want you to listen for the purpose of helping them. However, they want you to listen WITHOUT immediately trying to fix them. That’s a whole conundrum, I know. If they think you’re going to immediately clap back with a fix, they might not be open to you.

Kids need to see that you are not perfect. Not only do kids shy away from opening up if they feel like you’re going to come back with a fix, they won’t talk to you if they think you’re perfect. It’s intimidating to tell someone your dirt if they come across as Mr. or Ms. Perfect.

Kids need you not to doubt them, judge them, or make excuses. If you want kids to talk to you, you better be ready to listen thoughtfully ONLY. If your response is one of “you don’t know how good you’ve got it” or maybe “the world can be hard right now, but this will pass” or even “that’s not a very nice thing to say”, you can forget having kids share with you.

Kids don’t want to feel stupid or small. Thoughtful listening must happen without dismissing the other person’s feelings. Nobody wants to hear they are wrong, dumb, off-base, or unstable (even if they are). You have to listen thoughtfully and tread lightly.

You want kids to keep talking. Oh, this one! If you don’t come across as a thoughtful, deliberate listener, your kids will shut down. You can only hope they will find someone who WILL listen. Otherwise, they will keep all their thoughts and feelings inside. That’s how powder kegs form and eventually explode.

Early on, I had to show my daughter I was trustworthy, and it didn’t come easy. I’m a fixer, I ask too many questions, and I don’t have a poker face. All that had to go.

I had to resist the urge to respond. Oh, how I wanted to ask a million questions, suggest a million solutions, reason with her, and convince her. When it comes to mental health crises, there are seldom any answers and hardly any logic. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that some questions do not have answers and some things can’t be explained.

I had to stop acting like a mom and start being a person. Being the all-knowing, boo boo-kissing, solution-having, college degree-toting, perfectionist had to go. She needed to know I struggle, too, and she was not “less than” me. (And boy have I learned a TON about myself!)

And finally, I had to STAY wide open and available. I couldn’t be tired, let my guard down, or be afraid. She had to know I was ready to listen and would not be horrified by whatever she had to say. On the inside, I was so horrified I could scream. I was sick of it. I hated it. I never wanted to hear it again. Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t have wanted anything but to hear what she had to say and help carry the burden with her. To listen is to learn, and to learn is to know. You have to know what you’re up against to fight it effectively. You MUST keep them talking.

Therapy has helped. I am thankful beyond words to have a child willing to spill. She has always been super forthcoming with me, Daddy, and the therapist. Absent that, I’m not sure where we would be. I know there are a lot of people out there whose kids refuse to talk at all and would especially never share with a therapist. We are fortunate.

As part of suicide awareness and prevention, I want you to look at your own heart, evaluate what kind of listener you are, and examine what kind of listener you’d be if you were approached by someone struggling. If you find you’re not equipped to listen or don’t have the emotional bandwidth (some of us just can’t possibly hear hard things, and that’s ok), do you otherwise have a game plan for how to direct someone in need?

And finally, DO NOT JUDGE. This is not a game for armchair quarterbacks, mother hens, and do-gooders. Keep your opinions, suggestions, and free advice to yourself if you haven’t been in the trenches or suffered through your own suicidal ideation. Your mouth should stay shut (except to pray), your eyes peeled, and your ears open…that’s it. None of us have any idea what goes on inside another household – and most of all, none of us know what goes on inside another person’s mind. If you can’t be nice, be quiet. Suicidal ideation needs listening and love. That’s it.

(Oh…and it is on my heart to add…we told nobody about any of this early on, and I am only now blogging about it. Other people are going through things they don’t talk about, too. Don’t be a keyboard warrior and give them a life lesson when they post something. Don’t try to set anybody straight in a comment. Keep your two cents to yourself, even if it’s “in love”. You don’t know that person and what they go through, who they are, or what they are about. You don’t know their heart or their mind. Stay in your lane, love big, and pray for folks.)

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be accessed by calling 988 (or texting).

Suicide Prevention Month:  Our Story Continues

Trigger Warning: Mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts can be difficult to process. If you might be triggered, please skip this post.

When I talk about our mental health struggles with anybody, I get a number of questions and responses…

  • How did this all happen so fast?
  • But your daughter is so happy and fun!
  • Was she abused?  Bullied? 
  • What event put all this in motion?  Did someone die?

Nope, not of that.  Yes, she is a beautiful, happy girl.  Her daddy and I have been married to each other for 23 years.  We are best friends.  I teach my kids at home, we love Jesus, we throw big birthday parties, and we go on fun vacations.  She has loving grandparents and lots of friends.  She is not glued to a phone, and she doesn’t play violent video games all day.  Nothing happened.  Nobody died.  She was not bullied.

How our mental health crisis snowballed so fast, actually in a matter of weeks, remains a mystery.  One day,  I seemed to have life pretty figured out, and we were rocking right along like “normal” people do.  The next day, I’m seeing tics and repetitive behaviors.  The week after that, she is crying and screaming at me.  Then the next week, she is seeing evil things.  A month later, I find evidence of her having cut herself.  And ultimately, I learn that she had a plan to kill herself.

We woke up in a real live nightmare. 

First, I called an emergency room doctor I know.  Should I take her?  What will happen?  What will they do to her?  Can they fix it?  I called her nurse practitioner who recommended a diagnostician.  We waited 3 months for an appointment with a neuropsychologist and spent $2,500 to have her diagnosed (they don’t take insurance).  A visit to a sleep specialist yielded a clean night-time bill of health but also the “Tourettes” diagnosis.  It would be another 3 months before we could get in to see a therapist in person.  We finally got in, and it was a disaster.  Ultimately, we found online therapy, and two online therapists later, we settled in.

In the meantime, she was happy and totally herself…until she wasn’t.  She smiled at dance class and laughed with her friends some nights, then ran out of the room overcome with anxiety on others.  We sat in the kitchen floor of my studio and did breathing exercises holding hands, counting, singing, reciting verses, tracing each other’s fingertips, whatever it took.  She spent the night with a friend, giggled, rode horses, put on make-up, bopped around to her favorite music…until she didn’t.  She slept with us or she didn’t sleep, we had long (crying!) talks, we put away every gun, knife, pair of scissors, safety pin, loose paperclip.

We went to restaurants but no sooner than we got our food, we were packing it up to go because the restaurant was too loud, and she was having a panic attack.  Our whole family would get up and move around, switching seats or positions in a Waffle House booth when her OCD wouldn’t allow her to sit next to the door, a wall, or another person.  Objects and people to her immediate right agitated her.  She could not get up out of a chair without proceeding to walk starting with a certain foot. 

She saw a “Slender Man” (a horror villain) in her room at night and was too paralyzed with fear to call us or get out of bed and come downstairs.  There was a short, Leprechaun-looking gargoyle guy she saw standing at the corner on our Courthouse square every time we passed.  She saw a scary monster crouched behind her bathroom door.  (She says he’s still there.) Her fear of walking down the hallway to our bedroom increased.

She told us about her thoughts, thankfully.  Her thoughts told her there was no point in living.  Why was she here?  What was her role?  Why was she important?  Why did the world even need her?  Her thoughts told her to hurt herself.

Let me stop and say this…my world is pretty shiny.  I’m optimistic and sunny by nature.  I don’t watch horror films, I sing with the radio, I can recite Robert Louis Stevenson poetry by heart.  I was the artsy, creative, go-to-fun places, paint-with-watercolors, use-fuzzballs-to-teach-math mom.  I have never heard such tragic, terrible filth from a child’s mouth in my life.  To listen and not be completely sick was an effort in futility.  I often was.  To listen and believe any of this could be coming out the mouth of my precious girl was near to impossible.  Who was this child, and how did we get here?  How did my beautiful angel get here?

I immediately bought books.  I internet searched.  I read every word of everything I could find.  This was legit and possible and real I learned (regretfully), and we were in it.  I started her on supplements as per my research to offset any deficiencies that could cause brain fogs and chemical imbalances.  I learned coping mechanisms and practiced them with her daily.  When I found that she had cut herself, I learned about cutting and why kids do it.  (It’s complicated and real.  I get it now.)  After hearing she wanted to hurt herself, all bets were off.  I wouldn’t leave her alone, and I wanted to handcuff her to me (and I seriously considered it).  Reluctantly, we asked to be prescribed medicine, and it helped (an ongoing work in progress).

Then the Blame Game started.  Where did I go wrong?  How did I ruin her?  Why didn’t I know what to do?  What drove her to this?  How had I failed her?  (I’ll cover the Blame Game later.)  I quickly shoved my insecurities and responsibility aside, because I had to.  I had a child to keep alive.  God had a child to keep alive.  He was all I had.  He was all she had.  I prayed often and fervently.  I cried out, literally aloud, a lot.  I asked “why” and said “please” more times than I can count.

Other days she smiled, made jokes, and we got snow cones.

As part of Suicide Prevention Month, I tell you all this for one, single, critical reason – you MUST listen to children.  There was a time when she thought nobody believed her.  There were times I questioned whether her behavior was stupid teenager habits and her emotions the result of common teenage angst.  This happened in the midst of COVID, so I thought the world and it’s influences and all the fallout from sheltering in place, vaccines, and talk of illness was affecting her mental health.  No to all of that.

Struggling kids need you to hear them.  They need you to believe them and not make excuses or find reasons.  They need treatment.  They need safety.  They need love.  They need security and reassurance.  When kids are in the weeds deeply, it is not the time to quibble over the why’s and the how’s.  It’s time to go to work, keep them alive, and continually listen. 

You MUST hear them.  There is no “suck it up”.  There is no “put down that phone”.  There is no “but your life is so good”.  There is only gentle listening with your mouth shut, your eyebrows down, and your eye on God.  If you’re not a believer, I’m not judging at all, and I love you just the same.  I just know that we needed Him, we are thankful He was (is) always with us, and that He sustained us through it.

As I wrap up this post in the series, I urge you to pray for kids who are struggling and parents who are struggling.  I urge you to listen to your own kids, carefully and deliberately.  I urge you to avoid making excuses, dismissing behavior, or assigning blame.  Just pray.  Just be there.  Please listen.

The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be accessed by calling 988 (or texting).

Don’t Save The Candle

Y’all know what I’m guilty of? Saving the candle. Don’t save the candle.

I got this really pretty, super smelly candle for my birthday. It is sweet and fragrant. You almost want to eat it when you sniff it. Aaahhh!

My dumb inclination is to save it… like for the right occasion.

Tell me this…when is the “right occasion” for burning this Mint Julep candle?! Just when? Valentine’s Day? Arbor Day? National Hot Dog Day?

Y’all, burn the candle. Use the fancy plates. Drink out of the crystal goblets. Wear the sparkly shirt. Don the diamonds.

Life is too precious, too fleeting, and too worthy of celebrating to save the good stuff for the “right occasion”. That occasion is now!

Otherwise, we’re all going to pass on one day with cabinets full of odiferous candles and shiny things that never saw the light of day that our kids are going to have to deal with. And you know what they’re going to do? Save ’em…because they were Mama’s…or until it’s Christmas…or some other such nonsense just like we did.

So show me what you’ve been saving. Get it out, and show me you’re using it. Put it in the comments. Let’s celebrate life together with all the good things!

Suicide Prevention Month: Our Story Begins

Here’s the scoop on mental health problems…they suck. I think we’re now prepared to share some of our experience with mental health challenges and suicidal ideation, but be warned. It’s hard and sad and awful.

I am bringing it to my blog, because September is Suicide Prevention Month. We are a few weeks into the month, and I’m only know mentioning it, and I hate that. I wish I had started sooner.

I’ve had to think it through, though, and frankly, man up. It’s hard to discuss. And I wanted to talk to Brady about sharing to be sure it was ok with her. I decided I was ready, and she said “Yes! Tell it all!”, so here we are.

The goal is to bring awareness in a meaningful way. Of course, you’re aware that suicide exists, but you might not be aware of how suicidal ideation starts, that it can happen seemingly out of the blue with no trauma or underlying trigger, and how it affects a family from an inside perspective.

And, naturally, we hope we save a life. We hope we help a mother navigate the horror that is a child with suicidal thoughts. We hope we help grandparents who may not understand. We hope we can help a child who might be struggling to be heard and helped.

Again, be warned that this is a terrible, gut-wrenching topic. It’s even harder to hear if you love us and our Brady. If you will be disturbed or triggered by reading our story, just skip these posts. You’re probably already thinking, “Wait, what?” and didn’t even know we had suffered through this. Yeah, well, we put on our good faces best we could and pushed through. That’s material for a future post for sure.

Rest assured, though, that so far, our lives have continued. Some families do not have that luxury and will forever deal with loss and grief. Their stories have a tragic end. We recognize that.

Let’s start sorting through our experience to date…

When she was 12, her 13th birthday approaching, my daughter was displaying some pretty noticeable OCD-looking behaviors. She touched the radio button after I touched it. She pushed the STOP button a number of times on her phone. She wanted a certain bowl. There were more.

At the time, what I knew about OCD fit in a thimble. I knew enough about OCD, though, to know that it presents itself a number of ways and will appear in behaviors that seem excessive and not normal. Don’t ask me how I knew even that much. I guess I read a lot.

Next, she began to tic. We were sitting at a restaurant, and she abruptly said “milk” and then a few minutes later “duck”. Nobody responded. When I asked her later if she realized what she said, she acknowledged saying it but couldn’t explain it. Then she started blinking.

The eye blinking came with other repetitive facial contortions. She winced and wrinkled up her face and grimaced over and over. I initially figured she had started something that would become an annoying teenager habit, but nope. She yelled at me for suggesting it and told me she couldn’t hold it back.

So as this continued to ramp up (and it did in a matter of only about 3 weeks!), several bouts of anxiety, and lots of tears, we got busy. She was extensively tested by a Neuropsychologist and diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, OCD, ADD – Inattentive, and a learning disorder called Dyscalculia. It explained so much. We took her to a Sleep Specialist, too, because (believe it or not) one’s sleep habits and breathing affect one’s mental health. He was the first to say “Tourettes”.

There we were…a laundry list of conditions AND Tourettes. We set about researching all that and trying to find solutions, and in the meantime, she got worse…lots worse. Come to find out, Tourettes is a package deal. It always comes with Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and some kind of learning disorder, and we would learn that THOSE little disorders are the baddies. Forget the tics.

OCD proved to be the toughest, and it dug itself in deep and fast. Despite what you think you know, OCD is NOT about extreme organization and germaphobia. It can be, but that’s not all. OCD brings about terrible intrusive thoughts, even hallucinations. It makes mountains the size of Everest out of little, tiny mole hills in one’s mind. It is hard to contain. It fools one’s brain into thinking irrationally, then feeds off that to form this vicious circle of fear, reaction, and doubt. It can usher in cutting and suicidal ideation. And it did.

I want to tell you about each piece. I want to shed light on hard-to-understand mental health concepts from the point of view of a mom who knew absolutely nothing about any of it but had to learn. I want to try to explain the gut-wrenching, mind twist that she went (goes) through, and that my husband and I went (go) through. I want people to lighten up and listen. I want to explain how it is unexplainable. I want to help at least one person dig deeper, question their child, and try harder.

More than anything, I want people to get off their freaking high horses and realize that mental health problems are not only REAL, but they are RAMPANT and go unnoticed, undiagnosed, dismissed, and just plain not taken seriously when it comes to kids. And that CAN NOT be.

Ride the wave with me, if you like. Learn with us. We want ZERO trophies, medals, or parades. We want ZERO pity parties. We just want to create awareness. Maybe our experience will help someone else.

And before we get too far into it, let me tell you that there is HOPE. If you catch this early, if you get busy, if your faith is unshakeable… there are a lot of if’s…there is hope.

Our precious girl walked the aisle at church 2 weeks ago to profess her faith in Jesus, and this Sunday, she will be Baptized. Her struggle continues, and yes, we still deal with suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and other really awful mental health struggles. But she’s so much better!

The important part of that is that WE DEAL WITH IT. She is alive, and she now WANTS to live. There is hope.

Ride the wave with us, if you can, and share. Reach out to someone. Help. Pray. Seek to understand. Learn. That’s what Suicide Prevention Month and creating awareness is all about. Unless you’ve been through it, you only think you know, I promise.

Feeling Joy

Feeling shiny this morning, and I hope you are, too! It’s a beautiful day here at the barn watching Brady ride.

I’m enjoying loving on this little orange kitty, too. (His name is Chip. His buddy running around here, the white kitty, is Queso. So cute!) Breeze is keeping a close eye on them. A moment ago, they were frolicking and jumped…and Breeze jumped! Scared her! Too funny!

A friend posted this morning that she was working on a few projects for work, loving life, and doing what she wanted to do. Yes, Girl!

Doing what you want to do is everything. In the midst of praying for an end to my funk, I’ve been super diligent about praying for anything (or any person) bad for me to be removed from my life and anything (or any person) that is good to be added.

It’s been pretty awesome to watch people go, to watch things fall away. Any other time, I would be fretful about a dancer leaving the studio, worried over why a “friend” won’t respond to my text or call. I would be “spooked” over little things, like Breeze was by the kitty. Not anymore.

It’s been miraculous to watch people show up, to find joy and peace in new things. Happiness is temporary and dependent on circumstances. Joy is the real deal, a deliberate effort, and recognizing that I am blessed.

I hope today YOU are able to do what you want to do. Make it happen! I hope you’re surrounded by good and that the bad falls away. I hope this cool breeze is blowing on your face, you get to feel the warmth of this sun, and you have real joy.

It’s soooooo good to be out of the funk… and with kitties. 💜

Bee Hive Update

You may or may not know that my husband and daughter have been raising and cultivating bees in our backyard. It was my husband’s dream to have bees, and it has been the best experience. We have all learned so much. Here’s the most recent update…

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Bad news and good news for the hives…

The bad news…the hive that was thriving the most did not make it. Either mites or overcrowding, not sure which, caused the bees to abandon the hive. It is ruined and will have to be cleaned out and started again. Very disappointing, but a learning experience.

The good news…the hive that appeared to be the “lesser” of the two produced a good amount of HONEY! Keith and Brady were able to harvest some today. They left the rest of the frames laden with honey and brood in the hive so the bees could continue their work, growing and reproducing.

Did you know it takes one bee working its whole life to produce a teaspoon of honey? Amazing!

The honey is unreal, a true miracle. It is delicious, and we are grateful. It’s been a challenging and rewarding experience, and Keith and Brady are eager to keep it going.

We love bees! 🐝

Out of the Mud At Last

Y’all ever stepped in that kind of mud that sucks your foot right up, and you lose your shoe?

You can’t go on. What do you do with your sock foot? How do you get your shoe unstuck and back on without getting completely muddy? You just stand there holding up one foot, trying not to fall over, bobbling and balancing, working to frantically make a decision.

I think that’s where I’ve been. Stuck. Teetering. Unbalanced. Frantically trying to figure out what to do.

How’d that happen? Well, after my show, I felt really bogged down. I had gotten myself in pretty deep, people pleasing, making magic for everyone else, managing all the details, shouldering the burdens, carrying the weight of mental health struggles.  If you’ve been a follower of the blog for very long, you know I’ve been in a funk.

I have been trying my best to get out of the mud, fend off that stuck feeling. I’m not a miserable person at all. In fact, I’m pretty joyful, optimistic, and ambitious. That’s why it’s been so hard.

When you feel like you’re sunk up to your knee right here in this place, stalled and completely immobile…but you can see high ground over there in the distance where you’d otherwise be in motion making your life happen…you feel helpless, discouraged, stifled. That’s been me. I’ve really struggled.

Then yesterday…

I was excited about going to church, but I was a little resistant because a guest pastor was due to speak. I love our actual pastor, and I always look forward to hearing him, so meh…a guest pastor. So I prayed before I left the house that whatever was preached would be a lesson for me.

Y’all.

The wealth, beauty, depth of the gospel is too great, too deep, too rich, to ever be fully realized. It is riches untold!

The gospel is wisdom on display – the glory, plan, and purpose of God unfolding, eternal and evident.  It never evolves, changes, or bends. It is a guide, a truth, we can rely on.

Following the Bible is worthy of our every effort. Stewardship is everything. We are rewarded, and we will be intimately rewarded.

All that is fine and totally true. Then he said….

The energy we put in is worth it.

Now I’m not sure if it was the heartfelt way he said it, his inflection, or what, but that statement hit me in the gut.

He repeated it. He said it louder. He said it again and again slowly and with diction.

It. Is. Worth. It. The energy we put in to following God’s word and putting energy into living according to that word is WORTH IT.

And that’s all I could think about.

God created me. He gave me talent, intelligence, sense, discernment. He gave me His word that is deep and vast and never waivers. He made way for me to have my husband and my children. He gave me strength and courage for fighting battles. He walked right alongside me as I built my dance studio, put in long hours, took crap from people, and made it into something great.

The energy I put into following Him, being grateful to Him, working to cultivate and grow what He gave me…all worth it. The energy I expend…worth it. The people He puts around me…all worth the energy I offer them. There will never be an instance when my desire and effort to seek, carry out, and celebrate all He does for me will not be worth it.

So I feel better. I’m equipped, and I’m ready. I’m ready to BRING the energy. I’m ready to BE the energy. I’m ready to SHARE the energy.

MY energy was spent. I was running on ME fuel. His energy is unlimited. He knows when to give me rest. I need to run on Him fuel.

Lord, thank you for sending that guest pastor. And thank you for speaking through him to reach me. He was right. The energy I put in is so worth it. Now I can’t wait to get started.

I’m out of the mud at last! I can do this. I have His energy, and the world needs it. The world needs me. It’s worth it!

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 1:6