Bipolar Disorder, depression, mental health, motherhood, women's health

5 Mental Health Confessions and Why I’m Coming Clean

Photo by Skyla Design on Unsplash

I began a kindness initiative nearly one year ago. Little Hope Notes was born from compassion, creativity, and the desire to make a small difference. I remember how easily the words came to me when I would sit down and write a little hope note. The opportunities ahead seemed limitless and I’d smile at the thought of someone discovering a note and it being an encouragement to them.

Instagram seems to be a place to present polished versions of people. Those people share their victories and at times they share their struggles. I didn’t know where I fit in and I didn’t know how to make Little Hope Notes an encouraging platform when I was struggling so desperately with my own mental health.

I began to avoid all social media for my own well being. It felt impossible to be positive when I was comparing myself against every account I scrolled past. I hid.

I didn’t just hide on screen, but off screen too. My own depression gripped me so tightly that I stopped writing little hope notes. I stopped sharing about it. I stopped showing up for myself. Under I went into a place that I can only refer to as the darkness.

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When I was down there I thought about how desperately I wanted to feel alive. I wanted to feel peace and have a deep understanding of myself. Then, a moment came when I realized that all of the Little Hope Notes I had written for others really spoke to me as well.

Was it possible that I had been writing what my own heart needed the whole time?

That depression clung to me for a long time, but as the sun began to thaw the outer edges of my heart I began to see. I saw those that were struggling and I knew right then and there that it wasn’t just enough to share encouraging words with others. I had to show hope. Sometimes hope doesn’t look promising at all. As a matter of fact, hope tends to push us out of the soil when we are at rock bottom.

There are 5 mental health confessions that I need to share. These things occur when I am at my worst and I am realizing that isolating myself in a confessional booth isn’t what hope looks like. It’s coming out into the open and sharing it with you because maybe you’re hurting, too.

  1. I distance myself from the people I love most. I never feel guilty about it because my trauma response of wanting to self preserve is stronger.
  2. I have been in therapy for 5 years and I only started telling my therapist the truth two weeks ago. I wasn’t blatantly lying, but was so defensive that I didn’t even know what my truth was. Years of self sufficiency can make it hard for vulnerability to move in.
  3. Suicidal thoughts come into my mind often. Although I have a strong support system and a safety plan, it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
  4. I’m learning slowly that I deserve love and peace. I am in this strange place of showing myself tenderness and grace. Sometimes that’s too uncomfortable to sit with so I keep running.
  5. I’m a peacemaker. I always have been. That quality has led to a lot of pain in my life–trusting too much too quickly. When I feel that people aren’t trustworthy I enter a place of self sufficiency and swear them off before they even had a fighting chance.

Show Up

If there’s anything that I can say I know about you for sure it is this.

You are safe to confess what you struggle with. You’re loved simply because you exist and there’s nothing that can extinguish that light inside of you. Hope is always there. See if you can find her the next time a storm rolls in. She’ll be the one waiting on the shore for you.

Nikki xx

mental health, motherhood, women's health

3 Truths to Live By

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Our inner dialogue can become exhausting to live with if we are constantly hearing and believing the worst about ourselves. When those times of discouragement come take time to replace those thoughts with the three truths to live by.

1. I am not alone

When we face hardships the first thing that can pop into our mind is Nobody understands me. Then, our emotions kick in and we feel isolated and alone. Regardless of what you are going through, you are not alone. There is someone in the world that is facing something that is breaking their heart as much as your trial is breaking yours. We hear so often about what makes us different. Whether it’s the color of our skin, the place we grew up, or the education we have received–we’re constantly bombarded with our differences.

The truth is that we’re all more alike than we realize–especially in our suffering. Nearly everyone knows what grief feels like. There aren’t many people that don’t know what sadness or fear feel like. 

It’s so vital that you remind yourself of the community, friends, and family around you. If you don’t feel like you have any people to love and care for you in those areas then keep your eyes open for encouragement. It isn’t far fetched to think that we find the hope we need just when we need it. Most of the time it’s in the most unexpected places. 

2. I matter 

You matter. Your life matters. Your opinions, hopes, fears, and dreams matter. This is a truth to keep close to your heart today and always. Why? Because sometimes we all feel like we are in a robotic mode through life. We can feel that life is happening to us and not for us. Our opinions become buried deep because we think that they aren’t important. Dreams collect dust because we’re not confident enough to make them a reality. We hold our fears with a tight fist afraid that someone may see them and push us aside. 

Our hope is that you will always know that you matter. On hard days, you matter. When you make mistakes, you matter. Those times that you’d rather not share your heart, you matter. There isn’t anything that you can comprehend that is as vast as your importance. The galaxies themselves pale in comparison to the beauty that is within you–simply because you are

I’m imperfect

This is not giving you a mirror to hold up to yourself and count what you perceive as flaws. This isn’t a lesson on humility or an encouraging piece on how to embrace your quirks.

Perfection is fleeting. We accomplish something and the feeling of victory and encouragement fades as quickly as the setting sun. Trying to attain perfection is like trying to catch the morning fog in your hands. It’s impossible. Girl, this is your chance to lay all of that down. The need for control is deeply rooted in many of us. Many of us carry that burden because we felt unsafe and insecure in our childhoods. You are weary and you’re going to fall to pieces if you keep chasing after perfect. She’s an illusion and will always be ten steps ahead of you in your mind. Being imperfect means you’re human. Being imperfect means you’re breathing. Being imperfect means that there’s cause for celebration. You do not need to fix, become, or salvage yourself. You are imperfectly perfect.

Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Chronic illness, depression, mental health, motherhood

Bipolar and My Middle Name

Nicole means Victory for the People. I remember sitting on a green upholstered church pew when I was little and reading that on a bookmark that I owned. I’d twist the burgundy tassel top around my fingers and imagine myself helping people that needed help. I never realized that victory was meant for me, too.

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Bipolar Disorder

To date I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder three times.

I have lived in denial for about two years and have avoided being medicated like the plague. I couldn’t reconcile that I was being diagnosed with the same illness that my father had, even though he had bipolar type 1 and I have been diagnosed with bipolar type 2. If you’re curious about the difference between the two types, I encourage you to read about it here.

Over time, the depressive episodes have gotten worse and lasted longer. The hypo-manic episodes have surfaced as severe anxiety and paranoia. Just this week, I hit rock bottom and realized that my misery outweighed my actual fear of going on medication. I saw the psychiatrist on Wednesday and began medication immediately.

I’ve lost too many precious days with my family to postpone treatment any longer.

I’m ready to redefine my normal and to discover facets of the “real” me again.

Victory Redefined

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

All those years ago when I was imagining myself being a helper, healer, and victor for those in need on a church pew in East Tennessee, I think I had it all wrong. I’m learning that victory isn’t always what we imagine.

Maybe I’m not running into a physical battle like I imagined as a kid. I’m not advocating for justice in a courtroom or championing for the rights of the oppressed.

I’m advocating for myself and because I’m doing that, I am fighting along some of the bravest people I’ll ever know. That’s you, by the way!

I believe victory isn’t about what you accomplish, but instead how you persist.

My middle name is Nicole.

I hope I can help you you acknowledge the victories you have every day.

Keep going. xx

Anxiety, Chronic illness, depression, mental health, motherhood, parenting, women's health

Mental Health and Motherhood

Dear Stranger,

Mama, I see you. I see beyond your pajama pants and messy bun in the school drop off line. Two panes of glass separate us–yours tinted darker than mine. There, in the shadow that the morning sun is casting on your face, I see the dark circles under your eyes and the taut thin line that your lips create just above your chin.

I look in the rear view mirror at my daughter.

She’s talking about how she doesn’t need her coat because the sun is out. It’s 34-degrees outside. I catch a glimpse of myself in that rear view mirror then I look back over at you. I see myself in you. We’re tired, aren’t we? Being a Mama is hard.

Nobody told me how hard it would be to navigate motherhood. No one took me by the hand and showed me that I can live with Major Depressive Disorder and still be a good mom.

Maybe you’re reading this as you’re rocking your newborn to sleep. Maybe this is reaching you as you’re sitting on your bathroom floor crying while your toddler throws a tantrum just outside the door.

I am writing this to you wherever you are, Mama.

I am writing this to me.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I know what it’s like to be full of enthusiasm and greet the day and your child with wide eyes and sweet kisses. The day ahead like a blank canvas–yours to fill with color and memories. Breathing in the scent of your kid as they lean in for a tired afternoon hug feels like magic.

Then there are the other days. Those days.

I know what it’s like to be full of dread and greet the day and your child with a hurried pace and tired eyes. The day ahead like a burden–yours to crawl through. Catching your breath at the end of the day as you lay your head on your pillow feels like magic. The regretful rush, lack of patience, and short temper sit heavily on your chest. Hot tears form in your eyes, but you never feel them fall because you’ve already fallen asleep.

Most Mamas can fully relate to both scenarios.

There’s the other days. The days when everything in the external world is just as it should be, but the storm rages inward. There’s a cloud so dark and heavy hanging above you and you can feel yourself fading–becoming it.

Then, there are the times adjusting to a new psychiatric medication. There’s the initial hope followed by the deep fatigue and other symptoms that creep in and take over for the weeks following. Finally, the medications sync with your system and you feel some sort of relief from depression’s weight and anxiety’s grip. You’re left wondering if the weeks of investment are going to pay off–the torture of adjusting to new chemicals swimming in your body.

The stigma associated with medication seems to find you on a cellular level and although you’re happy to feel more like yourself, you’re also struggling with feeling like a failure for having to need help.

All of this is so difficult. Yet, only the faithful few–sometimes the faithful one–check to see how you’re doing.

Motherhood is an all encompassing, invigorating, and absolute “play it by ear” song and dance. For those living with a mental illness it feels impossible to care for yourself–not to mention the tiny human that God has entrusted you with.

So, we prioritize those we love and let whatever treatments that may or can be wait on the horizon for another day.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Mama, this Little Hope Note isn’t a list of things you can or should do to make your mental illness more manageable. Thankfully and also ironically unfortunate, there are enough of those blogs awaiting you in your next Google search.

What can I give?

I just want to acknowledge you. I want you to know that you’re lovely and you are loved–as you are.

You aren’t broken.

There isn’t a day that I don’t think of you. In fact, acknowledging that you exist means that I’m not merely existing, but am part of a community–a tribe of Mamas suffering, but loving deeply despite it all.

You?

You’re a beautiful Mama.

The best that your child could ask for.

Be her.