Yesterday, here in Canada, was Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day. It happens every year, and it’s a country-wide day to raise awareness for mental health and to encourage people who are and aren’t struggling to reach out to their neighbours, family members, friends, and coworkers to help increase community among people.
Often it can be really difficult to talk about mental health issues. We chase so many things all at once, trying to be perfect in so many areas, that to admit that we’re struggling can seem like failure.
I am so excited to have Sarah E. Ball today on the blog talking about her journey with mental health throughout her marriage. She’s got so much truth to speak, and has dedicated herself to helping women along this journey! So glad to be able to share her writing with you today!
I had never eaten so many S’mores and Jujubes in my entire life. Canadian girls don’t diet when it comes to camping. One morning, after we had returned home from our weekend of campfires, hot chocolate and marshmallow binging, I stared at my treadmill, determined. “It’s just you and me friend, you better undo what I just did and make me sexy again.” I set it to I’m-gonna-die-skinny mode and I ran hard. Ten minutes into my run I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath so I slowed down to walk.
I stepped off the treadmill trying to take some deep breaths as I counted my pulse. Woah, that was a fast heart rate, I thought. My chest began to feel heavy and tight and my throat felt like it was constricting. I could pass out at any moment. I grabbed the house phone and looked around the house, trying to think of the best place to lie down, in case I died. “I think I’m having a heart attack” I told myself. I fell limp on the couch and started to shake uncontrollably; unable to speak, only mutter, I called 911.
Three paramedics came marching in. Ugh, I thought to myself, I’m going to die on my living room couch in my workout clothes, smelling like campfire and they send the cute paramedics?! After their investigation of my symptoms they said, “Sarah, we don’t think anything is wrong with you. We believe you are having a panic attack.” I was humiliated. How could it be a panic attack?! I wasn’t even thinking of anything stressful or terrifying, I was trying to jog off my diet of sugar, corn syrup and artificial colouring!
My husband came home right away, tucked me into bed with my newly prescribed bottle of Ativan, and we both agreed that I had been under a lot of stress and that after a good nap I’d feel better. But I didn’t feel better. I began having panic attacks multiple times a day. I had developed generalized anxiety disorder and harm OCD. And just like the bible verse says in Proverbs 12:25 (anxiety in the heart of a man leads to depression), I eventually spiralled into suicidal despair and it lasted almost a year. You can read more of story here.
My mental breakdown was incredibly hard on my marriage and both my husband and I were shell shocked. I was after all, the strongest, most faithful woman he had ever met. Was this our new future? How was he going to handle all the responsibility with an ill wife and maintain his own health? How would our children be affected? Others supported us the best they could but no one really knows how to handle the mentally ill. “I’m so um sorry your wife is…um…sick and…um…losing her mind?” My husband became my greatest support and it was integral in my recovery.
After a year of doctors, therapists, rest, support and most of all God’s hand and guidance I fully recovered and now I have devoted my life and writing to helping others recover and find the hope and tools they so desperately need, that I so desperately needed. I am about to publish book Fearless in 21-Days – A Survivors Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and I have just opened the doors to my very first online course called The Fearless Traveler Course. – A Guided Tour For Christians Battling Anxiety.
We pursue so many things as women. Beauty, status, a great figure, a ‘perfect’ family, a great marriage but what I want to really urge you to understand is that having a healthy mind should be a greater priority than a sexy anything else.
Some of you reading this are in different stages of mental health. You’ve been blessed with a healthy mind. Some of you aren’t battling a mental illness but you know your mind is not as healthy as it should be. Some of you reading this are crying because my story is yours right now, some of you have lived with mental illness your entire life and don’t even know what a sexy brain looks like anymore.
No matter where you are in your mental health walk, my challenge for all of us is to make a shift from putting external things, wealth, beauty, acceptance, even people pleasing aside and begin to focus on building healthy habits for a healthy mind!
Here Are Three Tips To The Sexiest Brain Ever!
Is rest your four-letter word? It used to be mine. With 5 children, multiple church responsibilities, marriage, blogger, self-imposed super mom, rest to me was a sign of weakness and I showed no mercy. When I became mentally ill, rest was one of my greatest weapons. Learning to rest meant I had to give up on a few major attitudes:
- Pride, because no one else could do these things as well as me.
- Control, because I had to make sure things were done well and disobedience, because God never asked me to take on certain things to begin with.
Now when I feel a lot of stress coming on, my first defence is rest. Which means, trusting God to take over the treadmill, delegating to others what they will excel at and reminding myself I’m not super human.
Mental wellness can be greatly affected by things we have no control over. For example, trauma, childhood learned behaviours, genetics, chemical imbalances, hormones and more. I was a mixed cocktail of all of the above. As much as I had to accept that my mental illness was not my fault, I also had to accept the truth that no one else could ‘fix’ me. I had to take responsibility for my health. I now know that no matter what cards are stacked against me I am responsible to do the best that I can for my own mental care and health.
Reading Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong has given me a new word for that yucky stage in life where we are stuck emotionally. I was a suck-it-up-princess gal, the queen of shove it down until you forget it, but our bodies never forget trauma, sorrow or grief. It will eventually catch up to you. It may show up in a physical illness, or in anger, in our marriages but more often than not it will show up in mental illness. I have learnt that when I am faced with a trial, trauma or grief I drop down and give God 10! Learning to grieve, be vulnerable and ask for support is not weakness it is indeed the bravest act of humanity and the healthiest for our brains.
Take a moment today and ask yourself: On a scale of 1-10 how well do I take care of my mental health? Am I resting, am I rumbling and am I taking responsibility? If you recognize that you are not where you need to be, take a moment to plan how you can make it a priority in your life.
If you are battling moderate to severe anxiety I would love to help you discover some powerful insights, lessons and tools in overcoming this crippling illness. I have created an online course for Christians who want to be set free from fear. Don’t worry I’m not going to pat your hand and tell you to ‘just pray more’ or tell you to ‘give it to God’ These are real, practical and powerful tools to help you on your road to recovery. Check it out here: The Fearless Traveler Course.