I Survived, Part 2

By: Chaunte McClure

Hiding behind out masks

Even when we look our best, we can be experiencing some of the worst times of our lives. We smile like everything is going well, yet we have so much hiding behind our masks. Hurt, shame, disappointment, and heartaches are tucked behind our masks because we don’t want to reveal the pain. I’ve been there. I eventually became depressed and I didn’t want to carry the weight of all those negative emotions any longer. Last month, I gave you a peep into my story about depression and now that the I Survived Women’s Empowerment Conference is over, today I will tell you more.

I got to a very low point in my life and I decided that I was too tired to continue living. I was tired of the struggles, tired of being angry, tired of being sad, tired of the stress and tired of fighting. One Saturday I thought I really understood why people commit suicide. I started wondering how I could do it. How can I end my life?

Then I saw the faces of some of my family members – the people whom I would’ve hurt the most. I have no doubt that was God’s way of stopping me from making one of the worst decisions I could have ever made. It was after that moment that I finally asked God to help me. I had been so focused on all of the situations and life changes that eventually led to depression, that God really wasn’t my focus any longer. I was overwhelmed with emotions, but I asked God to help me through it. I was too broken to even try to help myself and I realized that my situation required God’s power.

God said He would heal me, but it seemed like when I got two steps ahead, I would take one step back. I started getting frustrated, because I believed God would heal me, but I would occasionally have setbacks. I pressed forward and I anticipated the day when those symptoms would finally go away. I wanted to be healed right away, but it was a process and I believe God was teaching me patience and how to persevere through the process.

It was a long road to recovery, but I made it! I had to pray and I had to fight the negative thoughts that crept in mind because this was a spiritual battle and a mental battle, but with God’s help, I survived. You can too!

Getting Real About Mental Health

By: Leah Prescott

LeahThis has been a long time coming. I think I’ve mentally written this post dozens of times and have been re-writing it on paper for months now. As much as I consider myself to be an honest and open person, I don’t think I’ve ever completely shared with anyone about my reality, maybe not even with myself. Why come clean now? Because growth doesn’t happen without transparency, and openness can be healing. Hopefully healing for myself and others. Plus, May is Mental Health Month, so that was finally the push I needed.

Anxiety is something I have long struggled with. I was a worrier as a child. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, after I became a mom, that things took a turn for me. My worrying nature became a true disorder and began to inhibit my life.

At first the diagnosis surprised me, then I found it far too easy to believe. So much made sense now that I had a name to put to the struggle. Realizing what Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is has helped me to know how to fight it. GAD affects about 3% of adults. Statistically, women are twice as likely to struggle with clinical anxiety as men.

Some of my symptoms include IBS, dry mouth, cardiac symptoms, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, repetitive negative thoughts (OCD), insomnia, irrational fears, phantom skin sensations and good ole’ panic attacks. Sometimes these symptoms hit me at the most unexpected times. I often have panic attacks when I am doing something seemingly relaxing, like reading a book at the end of a long day. In essence, my body is letting all the stress catch up to me whether I like it or not.

Now I find that my anxiety is the lens through which I view the world. I know that my life is good, rich and wonderful, but I can’t even count my blessings. I am ultimately thankful to God that in Him I have no real reason to fear. But over all of that lies the ugly and dirty lens of anxiety. It dulls and mutes the colors that would otherwise be so beautiful. If I am being completely honest, there are many times when anxiety strangles the joy in my life.

Anxiety has kept me from travel and from social events. I have lost friendships because I was basically too overwhelmed to maintain them. I will always, always regret missing my best friend’s wedding. Her wedding happened soon after I started having panic attacks and the symptoms at that time were too much for me to cope with. I never said goodbye to my grandmother in the hospital because the mental stress felt like more than I could stand. Looking back, I can hardly believe that I let GAD get the best of me in those situations, but it can be strong and persuasive.

I have tried a few different treatments, a few different SSRIs (a type of medication). Sometimes they help, but I am still trying to find a good fit with my medication. I would like to try therapy but haven’t worked out the logistics of that yet. I have tried taking ice cold showers with some success. I have tried different supplements with varying results. Vitamin D directly applied from the warm South Carolina sunshine definitely helps me! Exercise is also effective, but it’s really hard to fit it in to my life right at the moment. As I am typing this, I realize how crazy it is to not do everything I can to treat the problem, so I resolve to tackle the exercise challenge soon. I wish I could say I have discovered the perfect solution, but GAD is always changing and evolving. What quells the anxiety today might not work tomorrow. You just have to deal with the symptoms as they come.

Why am I sharing all this right now? I guess because anxiety reminds me that I am human. Very human, and very, very imperfect. I think my experience with anxiety has given me better empathy for others. I know that even when I appear calm and capable on the outside, I might be battling my demons on the inside. So I try to give others the benefit of the doubt; I just don’t know what anyone is going through, so I do my best to show them compassion and empathy even if I don’t understand their behavior.

I don’t want this post to be overly negative. I have so, so much to be thankful for and my life is overwhelmingly a joyful one. Knowing I am not in control helps me remember Who is in control. Without God I would be losing this battle, but with His strength I know I have already won.

I want to reach out to anyone else who is experiencing these symptoms or feeling overwhelmed beyond hope. Anxiety and Depression are very real and very treatable. Things can get better. But you have to fight. If you want to fight, but just don’t know how, it might be time to talk to a doctor or counselor.

 

I Survived

By: Chaunte McClure

Women's EmpowermentOn Easter Sunday morning a parishioner stopped me to ask about a flyer in which I was pictured on Facebook. She was referring to the flyer about an upcoming women’s conference I’ll be participating in this month. As I shared information about the I Survived Women’s Empowerment Conference, she was eager to know what I survived. When I told her, she was utterly surprised. That’s usually the reaction I get when I share my story. Matter of fact, when I reflect on the state I was in, I can hardly believe it either. I survived depression. For months I walked around trying to be myself when in reality I felt like someone else was living inside of me. I felt different. I was miserable. I was sad, angry, and frustrated. These emotions were on repeat for nearly two years, but I survived. I survived after not wanting to survive.

How did I become depressed, you may be wondering? A series of unfortunate events led me to a dark, lonely place. Just when I reached a defining moment in my life, it seemed like everything fell apart and landed on top of me, but I survived. I survived because I allowed God to rescue me from that pile of rubble and restore the peace I once had. Was it easy? Absolutely not. I had to fight every single day from the moment I finally asked God to heal me until I was completely healed.

Why am I sharing this with you? Now that I’m healed, I want to encourage other women who are in that same dark place. God “… comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any afflictions with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) I know there are others who need to be comforted and if sharing my story in a blog, sermon or other public speaking avenue will motivate someone, I’ll keep writing and speaking because it’s a matter of life and death – physically and spiritually.

There’s more to this story, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who will be attending the conference to hear my story and the stories of other women who also survived some challenging issues. I’ll plan to revisit this topic in another blog post to tell you the rest of my story.

I’m Chaunte McClure inspiring you to SURVIVE.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or any other mental illness, get help. Don’t let the stigma of mental health hinder you from getting on the road to recovery.