Since moving home, my mental health has taken a huge hit.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Leaving my job/my kids so suddenly, transitioning home (which isn’t exactly the healthiest place for me to be in the first place), not having access to counseling, being separated from my community, figuring out job things-– these are all factors at play.
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of it, truthfully.
I’m just sad. And anxious. And then sad some more.
Add bored, lonely, and jobless on top of that, and you’ve got quite the spectacle. While my depression hasn’t taken as much of a hit (though being isolated and rejected a bit hasn’t done me any good in this area, and it’s been slowly getting worse), it’s my anxiety that has struggled with all this change the most.
My anxiety tends to manifest in a few different ways, primarily in physical symptoms. My stomach aches, my chest hurts (think how your chest hurts when you’ve been coughing a lot… that’s the feeling), my head throbs, I get random aches and pains, heartburn, so on and so forth. A lot of my anxiety is tied to my health, so when I get anxious because of one or more of these physical symptoms, my anxiety gets worse… it’s a cruel, unfair cycle.
Another way my anxiety manifests is in my insomnia, my inability to get to sleep. My inner night owl comes out to play, and not just ’cause I enjoy the night life.
So since I’ve been home, it’s been getting harder for me to sleep at night. I’ve been awake since 2, 3am most nights. Melatonin helps me get to sleep, but it’s willing myself to take them amidst the voices in my head wanting me to stay awake that’s hard. Because I’m scared of sleep, I stay up until I physically collapse, usually overthinking myself to sleep instead of counting sheep.
This is unsustainable in the long run, especially when I DO start working again. I cannot survive going to bed at 3 am and waking up at 7 or earlier to get to work, unless I’d like to become a zombie on The Walking Dead (I don’t).
I’ve nearly become nocturnal, sleeping during the day and staying up all night, filling out applications and dawdling on the internet. It doesn’t help that in the midst of all this, I was diagnosed with anemia, thus another reason I’ve been so fatigued/exhausted/drained, on top of the lack of sleep. (Now that I’m getting that under control, my fatigue is getting much better during the day! But getting to sleep at night is still a struggle).
I was out with my mom on my birthday a few weeks ago, picking up my birthday cake at Publix. I went to get some iron supplements (for the above anemia diagnosis) when a new sleep supplement caught my eye. It’s a gummy by the company Olly, called “restful sleep.” It has melatonin in it (which I have survived on since my mental hell started nearly 3 years ago). It also had an ingredient I didn’t know, L-Theanine. On the bottle it’s described as “an amino acid that encourages calmness so you can hush those voices in your head and drift off.”
Man, I need an IV of that stuff 24/7. Anything to shut the damn voice recorder in my head.
I ended up buying some, and it’s been great. I’ve been sleeping a lot better than I did with just melatonin, and I think part of that is because I’m not (mostly) sitting in bed overthinking everything before I go to bed.
Another thing I had to do when I started taking this stuff: Despite the anxiety telling me to stay awake, I’ve been forcing myself to go to sleep earlier.
I’ve begun using bits and pieces of the bedtime routine I started in therapy after my panic attacks started: Write my to-do list if needed, turn my phone on do not disturb and turn the laptop off, make my bed (yes at night, i know I’m weird) read my bible study/devotional, say my prayers before my head hits the pillow. This signals my body that it’s not time to burn the midnight oil, but time to gear up for rest.
I hate it. Every fiber of my body hates it, because I lie down to sleep every night so scared, even with supplements and routines. I’m scared of dying in my sleep. I’m scared of the future and not knowing what’s next. I’m scared of financial struggles and paying bills and getting out of my mother’s house. I’m scared of everything and anything. It all manifests itself at night, when my stomach starts aching and my heart starts racing and I begin my tossing and turning dance routine (that my back and shoulders pay for every dang morning) as I lie down to sleep.
I will never understand why this is part of my life. I hate it.
Every night I pray the same prayer: just wake me up tomorrow, God. Let me sleep through the night and wake up the next morning. Please don’t let me die in my sleep. This hasn’t changed since my initial anxiety disorder diagnosis a few years ago.
There was one particular night a few weeks ago where I was just freaking out as I got into bed– unable to get comfortable, feeling sickly and sweaty and just inconsolable. As I was praying this particular night, I was exasperated. Defeated. Tired, but trying desperately to fight sleep. It was in this time of trying to get this desperate prayer out that I heard a voice. A thought that was undoubtedly not mine, because it was the complete opposite of where my mind was:
“Let go of your grip.”
That was it. “Let go of your grip.” When I heard it, I stopped and just thought for a moment.
I was lying in my bed on my stomach, my head in my pillow, arms over my mattress. My fists were clenched tightly, for no reason. But as I heard this voice I relaxed and let them go slack.
Let go of your grip.
There’s a lot of unknown in my world right now.
As my friend Kaitlyn so eloquently put it, “I have literally nothing together about my life.” Nothing. Absolutely nothing!
And to think, I used to believe I had it all figured out. Then life actually happened.
Control of everything in my life has slowly slipped from my grasp the past few months: my career, my home, my community, even my health… it’s all unraveled in some way recently, ever so slowly.
I’d love to say I’m okay with it, this losing control, thing. But I’m not. At all.
I hate losing control. I like knowing my steps before I move. I like having everything about my life in my grasp, right in front of me so I can determine where to go and what to do.
Letting go of my grip on my life and all that’s in it is extremely difficult. It means letting go of control. I don’t like relinquishing control– and as my fellow control-freak Monica Gellar-Bing says, relinquish is just a fancy word for lose. Losing control is something I loathe.
I’m afraid that if I let go of control, things won’t happen like they’re supposed to (aka like I want them to).
Letting go means surrendering all I am and not knowing what’s next with it all. I don’t like surrendering.
But then I remember who I am surrendering it to.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
I love the Message version of the same verse:
Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
Here’s another one:
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction. Psalm 23 (Message)
“That’s right. Because I, your God,
have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, Don’t panic.
I’m right here to help you.”
Isaiah 41:13 (Message)
And my favorites:
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20 (Message)
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7
I can let go of my grip, even when I’m fearful and frustrated with the whole control thing, because I know who has a grip on me.
It doesn’t make it easier to let go of my grip. It doesn’t make relinquishing control a happy thought. But I’m realizing that letting go doesn’t mean everything is out of control. It means that it’s now in control of the one who goes before me, the one who knows me and my life and my plans better than I can.
I can let go of my grip on my fears, my future, my plans, my everything when I know that they’re being caught by the same God who catches me.
My prayers before bed are a little different now.
My stomach still hurts, and my heart still beats out of my chest. But I take a deep breath and try to relax into sleep anyway. I still pray for God to wake me up everyday, because I still live with the fear that I wont. But I pray something else too now.
Alright God, I’m letting go of my grip. Please take all of this from me so I can sleep.
Take my fear of the future. My struggle with my career path. My worry about money and finances. My loneliness and frustration. Take my worries, my annoyances, my sadness. My overthinking and trying to plan it all on my own. Take all of what’s forcing me to grip my hands so tightly that I can’t let them go to find rest.
Letting go of my grip, I let His grip catch it all.
Maybe someday I’ll believe that letting go of my grip will be something good for me. Hopefully someday I’ll see the fruits of giving it all up to God and going to sleep. But until that day, I’ll say this prayer on top of everything else I pray, and hope to God someday this all makes sense.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (Message)
Pastures- Housefires (listened mostly to this album while writing)
this one too. Sound of Surviving-Nichole Nordeman (her whole new album is great)