Marriage, Marriage, Mental Health

Mental Health and Marriage: An Introduction

A couple holding hands in a field of tall grass at sun set.
Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

He held my face between his warm hands and looked me inventively in the eyes.

“I’m not going to leave you.”, he said as he leaned in and gently kissed my forehead.

Hot tears ran down my face as the snow flurries kissed the windshield. The heater was on, but I was chilled. I wanted to fling the door open and run as fast and far as I could, but I knew that even then I would still hurt. I looked down at my sparkling wedding band and up at my husband. Anger rose in my chest and I sobbed.

“You deserve better! You had no idea you would have to put up with all of this. I hurt! I hurt so bad because I can’t be better for you.”

I looked up from my ring and at his face which held a weight of sorrow that I wasn’t sure I had seen before. His eyes were filling with tears, but they didn’t pour over onto his cheeks.

This time he took my hand and held it to his cheeks.

“There’s nobody I’d rather spend my life with.”

Then, slowly and steadily his tears created small nearly invisible streaks down his cheeks.

The snow flurried outside and a Christmas song came on the radio. The world was bustling around us in the mall parking lot, but our universe had come to a standstill just long enough for us to catch our breath.

A couple standing closely about to kiss. The sun blurs out the faces.
Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

May ushers in Mental Health Awareness Month and with that I felt such a strong desire to share something of value. I have shared my own story in bits and pieces, but I have noticed that there isn’t a lot of energy given to discussing how mental health so intimately affects marriage.

I came up with an idea.

This month, my husband and I will share candidly about our own mental health struggles, the immensely difficult journey we have endured, the things we wish we would have known, and how struggle has both broken and ironically mended our marriage along the way.

We’re just two people that want you to realize that you’re not alone.

You’re invited to come as you are.

Nikki xx

Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, depression, mental health, rest, women's health

Tennessee and Me

Photo by Sean Stratton on Unsplash

The Story the Mountains Tell

Every morning the mountains would stand strong and silent against the dark sky. Then, the sun would slowly illuminate the treetops and the birds would begin to sing against a golden canvas. Those mountains would stand with their smooth scoops dipping into the valley below and greet me each morning. I would play with my cousins until the summer sun melted behind the ridge and the sky was left a cotton candy pink. Later, with my pajamas on and blankets resting on my cheek, the moon would light the tallest trees and the mountains and I would fall asleep together.

It was under that cotton candy sky and between those mountains–like bookends holding my life upright–that I began to hide. My temperament, childhood trauma, and desire to make others happy caused me to press on and act as if I was not affected by difficult times.

Photo by Sean Stratton on Unsplash

The Safest Place

“Please, help me. I don’t know what I need, but I need help.”, I begged with tears in my eyes.

I wiped my sweatshirt sleeve across my running nose and anxiously crossed my ankles.

“I can do that.” she said as she leaned in closer.

I was 28-years-old and was seeing a therapist for the first time. I looked around her home office and tried to count the books on her shelf to distract myself.

“I can see that you’re anxious right now. I want you to think of somewhere that brings you peace.”

I shifted in my seat and nodded my head in agreement.

“Where is that place for you?”

“The mountains.”, I said just above a whisper.

“What about the mountains makes you feel at peace?”

“Everything. I called them home for the first 19 years of my life. They’re so much bigger than I am and make me feel so small in the best way. I’m never alone when I’m in the mountains.”

“That’s beautiful. I want you to think of the mountains any time that you’re feeling overwhelmed during our sessions.”

“I will.”

Photo by Sean Stratton on Unsplash

Between Then and Now

I have used that technique in many sessions with my therapist since.

Maybe you’re on the edge of seeking treatment to work through past trauma, a new mental health diagnosis, or a combination of the two. It’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, it may be one of the most difficult things that you’ll ever do.

In all of my imperfection, I want to step forward and tell you that it will be worth it.

I’m holding space for you in the mountains. The sun is setting now; the sky turning golden pink. Soon, the moon will settle in for the night and the crickets will chirp by the creek. Then, lovely soul, the sun will rise and warm your face again.

Nikki xx

Anxiety, art, Chronic illness, faith, mental health, parenting, rest, slow living, women's health, writing

Dear Stranger, it’s time to rest

This guest post is by my dear friend Kiersten. She’s a nurturer, a soul filler-upper (that’s a word, right?), and hysterical breath of fresh air. She loves deeply and creates art with all of her soul over at all.from.home. Kiersten offers virtual yoga retreats a few times a year where she invites you into a safe slow yoga flow, a meditation on scripture, and a corresponding craft. Follow her on Instagram to stay in the loop and join us in her next retreat. She has been a huge influence in my own journey in true self-care and honoring my body by seeking regular rest.

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

I’m currently sitting in bed eating Ben and Jerry’s as I write this. I think that’s pretty appropriate with this topic.

The relationship between rest and me has always been a murky one. What is laziness, and what is this so called “self-care?” Where is the line? What is “rest,” and am I even allowed to have it?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve worked for rest. I’ve worked myself to the bone so that I could be deserving of a nap. I’ve pushed myself to the point of being sick, so then I could rest guilt-free, because “doctor’s orders!” I’ve spiraled in anxiety and depression over and over, because I didn’t give my body a voice. And why?

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

I grew up as a minister’s kid in a Christian home, and would still say of myself that my faith in Jesus is the biggest part of who I am. While I am so grateful for my upbringing, I think that this has often been my downfall. Growing up in the church, and constantly being involved in ministry has more often than not left me feeling that I am not enough. I don’t bring enough, I could never help enough people, I don’t donate enough money, I don’t give enough hours, I don’t fast enough, I don’t pray enough, I don’t care about the “headed straight to hell” souls enough, etc. etc.

I do want to note that this is MY experience. My experience has been in the area of religion. Maybe yours is in a career path, a relationship, or a family situation. I don’t know. But what I do know is that this seems to be a huge part of the human condition, no matter what or who you believe in. This overall dreadful feeling of “never enough.”

What if the reason we feel this way isn’t because we aren’t enough? Because we are completely drained? Will you do something for me?

Close your eyes, and picture a house plant.

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash

Imagine the leaves are brown, dry, and droopy.

Visualize the soil pulling away from the side of the planter due to how dry it is.

Now, see yourself getting a glass, and filling it 1/8th of the way with water.

See yourself walking over to the plant, and trying to water the plant with that amount of water.

Can you see the water barely wetting the soil at all?

Imagine that you are that water glass. Trying to nurture and create life, hoping to make some sort of difference, but totally and completely empty from the start. It was never going to be enough, because you started with a near empty glass.

I believe that God created the world in seven days, and on the seventh day, He rested. Now, he made man on the sixth day, right? Why not on the first day, so that man could help God do all the work? No, the very first day of man being a living creature, he woke up, and God said, “Today, we rest.” He started him off with rest. God knew that to give anything, there has to be something received first.

What if instead of living for rest, we lived from rest?

What would our lives, or marriages, our homes, our communities, and our world look like? The truth is that we’d all be pouring from glasses that are always full, not trying to squeeze out every last drop, and failing miserably.

I know I’ve asked a lot of questions here today, but I think that true rest to me is taking the time to notice. Rest can look like so many things, from naps, to creative time, to movie nights, to journaling.

But “true rest” to me is being present wherever I am, and living from the peace I have on the inside. It is asking myself questions all throughout the day.

Things like:

Mind, how are you today? Is there anything you need to lay down?

Body, how are you feeling? What do you need? If it’s a nap instead of a walk, that’s okay.

Soul, how are you? If you’re overwhelmed, it’s okay. Or if you’re hopeful, you have permission to be excited!

And then not judging myself for anything I feel, but answering myself in kindness, and taking the time to fill up my own cup. Because if I don’t, I am doing the world around me an injustice, because I will have nothing to pour out.

So, take some time today to find true, honest, real rest! Maybe it’s an hour, or maybe it’s 5 minutes. I just want to invite you to take some time to close your eyes, and listen. And hopefully be inspired to take a rest.

So much love, friends!

Kiersten

art, mental health, slow living, small business, writing

Dear Writer,

White coffee mug with the word Begin on it sitting on a wooden table.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

This post is dedicated to all of the writers attending the hope*writers conference in Charlotte, NC this week. My hope is that you leave inspired and with an ache to write for the hopeless.

The words within you are just as much a part of you as the blood in your veins and run as deeply as your bone marrow. Perhaps those words flow through you with each beating of your heart.

Fear often tries to put you in your place–reminding you that you should stay silent. Fear tells you there isn’t a soul that would find healing in your words.

You’ve been silent for too long.

A new season is beginning.

Do you hear it?

Can you see it?

It’s a season of audacity and hope–one where your words heal you and then, the world. Push through the soil and bloom with your face toward the sun. If you do not write your words then nobody will–they’ll come to a slow halt with the last beat of your heart.

The time is now.

Write.

Write because you were born to do so.

Write because people need hope.

Write and never stop.

You matter—your words matter.

Nikki xx

Writers, welcome to the Little Hope Notes community! Check out our shop to purchase your own pack of Little Hope Notes (free shipping) and start the kindness initiative in your own community!