Title photo done in Canva
I have been a stay-at-home mom since the summer of 2007. I love my job. But there’s always been a silent, nagging enemy sitting on my shoulder. Guilt. He rears his ugly head and tries to convince me my decision to be at home is wrong and I should get a “real” job. It’s grown larger since my son entered kindergarten in 2013. Who was I to be at home when both of my kids were in school and my husband was working all day?
Maybe it’s the hidden stigma of working at home. People assume you have nothing better to do with your time because you don’t actually “work” and can shift those responsibilities around because you do have flexibility. I read a great article about the stigma from Enteprenuer Magazine titled “4 Things No One Tells You About ‘Entrepreneur-ing’ From Home.”
There’s a hidden expectation when your kids are school-aged and you’ve been a stay-at-home mom, you return to the workforce. I go back and forth between this often, sometimes allowing it to consume me to the point I don’t get anything done. It feeds my depression and anxiety. Guilt has often determined my worth as a mother and wife. I’ve let guilt convince me the decision I made to be home was wrong. What was I doing to myself by leaving the workforce? Were my kids really gaining anything by me being home? Why wasn’t I contributing financially? How could I focus on my writing when I didn’t have the means to help fund it by working?
Somewhere along the way I convinced myself I had to make money outside of the home to make my family better, to make me better. If I was contributing financially I would be helping out. If I made more money I wouldn’t feel so guilty for being at home, especially now with writing, art, living with mental illness and chronic pain. The doctor bills often pile up, which is hard to process when I feel like I'm not contributing to the income.
Deep down, truth is, this is where I’m supposed to be. I feel it in my soul, knowing my “calling” as some may say. Being here to play a game with my kids after school or know they’ve had a bad day and I’m there for them is important to me. Being able to spend quality time with them instead of frazzled, unconnected time (which would be the case for me if I returned to the workforce) is important to me. Spending quality time with my husband is important to me. Being here with my family and for my family is important to me.
Photo by Christy Zigweid - All Rights Reserved
I have been truly blessed in this life and it’s time I start owning that. What do I do for a living? I’m a writer, mother, wife, card maker, scrapbooker, amateur artist, and blogger. Period. All of those things are where my talents lie. My passion is giving to my family, where I want and need to be. It is where I feel connected and worthy.
For me, writing, making crafts, doing art, and taking care of my family is the thing I HAVE to do. Without it my life would be incomplete. And when I find myself leaning toward doubt and whether I made the wrong decision, I just remind myself, I am living my calling.
What are your thoughts about following your own path and being being a stay-at-home mom/working mom? Let me know in the comments section or send a private message using my CONTACT ME page.
If you are in crisis and need immediate medical assistance, call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- (TALK) 8255 or text "Start" to 741-741
Photo by Christy Zigweid (all rights reserved)
Many times a day I ask myself “What is right?” What is right thing to do? The right thing to say? The right way to act? The right way to feel? The right way to behave? The right way to...(fill in the blank). And as I’m sitting here tonight I am asking myself those questions. Parenting has been very challenging lately. My emotions are out of whack with a medicine transition, and my chronic pain is seemingly getting worse although we are trying physical therapy for the pain.
Today it was all I could do to make breakfast. I rested a lot today; rested my mind and my body.
I have so many projects waiting that need my attention from home projects to daily living chores and to many creative projects. I know they will all get done sometime but when the chronic pain and low mood set in, it’s hard to get anything done.
Though on the verge of tears and wanting to jump out of my skin, I am thankful for my husband and my kids, who understand and help when needed. And I am thankful for my social media friends who post mood boosting posts and share their stories of everyday living.
A solution will be found in time. I do have faith in that. And I have faith in my medical care team to make the right decisions. As my friend @kevinhinesstory says, #hopehelpsheal and remember to #beheretomorrow and ever day after that!
I was asked last year to describe my blog in one word. For something that should have taken a while to come up with, it popped right into my mind: Authenticity.
There are a lot of blogs out there as well as many writers. Everyone is looking for “the way” to make it and have their voice heard. I’m embarrassed to say you will find posts on my blog which fall flat on their face. Those blog posts were written because I felt I needed to get something out to my readers. But there are also meaningful posts where I was being myself.
Authenticity matters to me because I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to “stand out” from the crowd. I write because I want to be true to myself as well as my readers, not some cut out cookie content mill. I write because I want my words to heal not only myself, but possibly help someone else going through the same thing. I write because I believe people should be true to themselves. And before you can be true to yourself, you have to want to learn about yourself. I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, partly because I’m an introvert and partly because I’ve battled mental illness since I was in high school. Years of therapy have helped me learn the good, the bad, and the downright ugly things I didn’t want to acknowledge, but have made me a better person.
It’s really easy to get pulled back into the trap of not being authentic and people do it for all sorts of reasons. It’s a plain and simple truth about human nature and especially hard when you are unsure of yourself. Our own fears, insecurities, and failings pull us back from being our authentic selves because they don’t like it when we stand up and say, “This isn’t working for me.”
What the Hell is a Platform?
When I started this writing adventure a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. All I wanted to do was join NaNoWriMo and write a book in 30 days. And I did. I wrote a book in 30 days. I was proud of my accomplishment. Then I started reading and believing what all the writers and marketers out there were saying about making a living as a writer. They said in order to be successful, you must have a “platform” and a “blog.” I remember thinking, “What the hell is a platform?” and "What the hell do I want to write about?" -- I'm still figuring this last one out!
I started searching and reading everything I could about building a platform. I set up my website and started blogging, continuing to read in an effort to convince myself I would become a better writer because of it. Then I started believing I “had” to do all those things to make it as a writer and gain readers. Because let’s be honest, without readers, writers wouldn’t have jobs.
I believed in many of the falsities, and in the process lost “why” I was writing. In fact, I’d given up writing altogether because I was searching for “how to” be a writer instead of just being a writer. The truth is, as writers we still have our words and no one will ever be able to take that away from us. For that right, I am thankful.
But there’s one small truth no one is acknowledging. You don’t have to do all that stuff if it’s not true to who you are and what you are doing. Let me repeat this: You don’t have to do all that stuff if it’s NOT TRUE to who you are and what you are doing.
I recognized I was not being true to myself last fall and that’s why I dialed back on the number of writing blogs I was reading and the number of podcasts I was listening to.
I’ve stopped blogging and writing altogether. I’ve fallen into the trap of believing I wouldn’t be good unless I did “X” again. And the more I believe this, the more I can't actually write.
I wanted to be among that group of “successful” writers. I wanted to make it as a writer so bad that I unintentionally set myself up for failure. And guess what happened? I crashed. I do not handle failure well. I’m not sure anyone does. My writer insecurity took over and I began to second guess everything I’d done. My instinct was to delete everything it all because I’d convinced myself it wasn’t making a difference and that my writing flat-out sucked.
I ignored the fact that first and foremost my writing should first be for me. And if someone else likes it, great. If they don’t, so be it. I ignored the fact that I started writing because I like to tell stories.
In my attempt to “fix” this crash, I started to read more and more about how to be a better writer and build an audience This only left me not writing at all. I believed I was an awful writer. Any negative feedback shot me down. I started looking at my work with such a critical eye, my writing was no longer enjoyable. I believed in the false truth that I am a shitty writer.
Why It's Okay to Make Your Own Rules
I forced myself not to listen to all the nonsense out there about how to make it as a writer. And for a while I was doing better.
But here I sit today, back in that spot of having to do “X” to be good, to be heard. And I have a confession to make. I’m not sure blogging is for me. Most times it feels forced and fake, inauthentic. I’m realizing the more I try to fight that simple truth, the more I push myself to be something I am not and create writing that is inauthentic.
I’m right back where I started, afraid and discouraged, stuck in the writer’s hole of hell, wondering how I will get out. It cripples me and keeps me stuck. And while I believe many writers feel this way, having chronic depression and anxiety doesn’t help me pull out of the situation or look at things logically.
Breaking the Rules
Today there’s something different. I’m seeing it from a different angle and I am breaking the rules of the “experts.” I am taking the pop ups off my website. And I am not offering the free incentive readers get “only if” they sign up for my email list.
I want people to sign up for my email list because they want to, because maybe I have something useful to say, not because I have to offer them something, coercing them into “giving” me their email. As writers, we lie to ourselves and convince ourselves we have to have people join our email list otherwise we aren’t successful.
I want my writing to be useful, for myself and for you, my readers. If my writing isn’t useful for you, that’s great. If it is useful for you, that’s great too. But I cannot continue to ignore the nagging sensation of not being authentic. So, while I work through how I want to get my writing out there, I’m changing the rules to fit my authentic self. I cannot continue to have this war inside myself. I cannot continue being stuck inside my head. I want to write. I want to sell my work. And I refuse to put it out there if it isn’t authentic.
One of my favorite quotes is by Benjamin Mee: “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise something great will come of it.” Well, here’s my 20 seconds of insane courage, laying my thoughts and writing out on the line.
So what’s next? Well, that’s up to you. Are you willing to have 20 seconds of courage? Are you willing to look inside yourself and learn more? Are you willing to be true to yourself and not be what other people want you to be? If so, join me, and we will start this journey together.
In the distance, I can see,
Those whose lives are completely free.
The chains that bind me threaten to kill,
My strength is diminishing and I can’t stand still.
I’m trying not to sink but it’s pulling me down,
Voices constantly haunt me,
And blackness is all around.
I can’t get past the anger, self-doubt, and mistakes.
Distortion has taken over,
Convincing me to believe,
I am not worth anything.
Tired and lonely,
Hating myself more all the time.
Help me beat this raging war inside.
I hear people say,
Don’t give up so easily.
Tomorrow is coming,
And it will pass.
Hold on for now,
Help is coming fast.
The life preserver is cast,
And floats right before me.
Do I reach a hold and go to shore?
Or do I sink and let it all go?
I’ve convinced myself this world is okay without me.
But deep in my heart, I know it’s not true.
For there are those who depend on me,
Who anchor my feet so willing to fly.
I can make it through this darkness,
One step at a time.
Help me see I am okay,
Take this sadness, take this pain,
Tear it away from me so I can start anew.
Help me see and realize what is true.
Calm and peaceful I can be,
When sleep and calm thoughts are at my side.
Tomorrow’s another day,
There is light on the other side.
photo by stevepb via Pixabay
We’ve had a lot of lemons thrown at us over the past few months. They’ve multiplied like little gremlins, taking over confidence, self care, and relationships within the family. They are like the endless winter which keeps hanging around, even though it’s April. I’m not tired of the cooler temperatures but I am tired of the lemons. They are starting to smell and eat away at me slowly.
Today is the third day in a row I’ve been up at 5:30 am and let me tell you, I am NOT a morning person. Sleep is essential in my recovery process. And when I don’t sleep well I spiral quickly.
I’ve been going through medicine changes which have caused my sleep to decline and my weight to pile on. The weight pile on has made my depression worse. I’ve tried to talk about my concerns with my therapist and those in my close knit group about weight and body issues but everyone seems to write it off and say it’s not a huge deal; reasoning everyone struggles with diet and weight. I’m not buying that. To some extent I know people struggle with it. But do they struggle with it so much that it COMPLETELY alters mood, self-esteem and daily life?
I am also trying to learn how to live with chronic pain. Diagnosed with MPS (myofasical pain syndrome) this past year, I’ve had to learn how to live with flare ups and limited activity, which is hard for me. And here’s the catch. The medicine supposed to help with my pain is causing weight gain. And while I know many psychiatric medicines do have that side effect, it’s the one that troubles me most and makes my depression worse. So now I’m in a bind trying to decide: Do I keep on the Mrs helping the chronic pain or do I go off and deal with the pain?
The past month has been a fog to me. In fact, I had lunch with my daughter the other day and I barely remember being with her. I often have memory problems, which I loathe entirely. It scares me for the future. My body moves around but my mind no longer moves with it. My mind is its own little person in a way, and it’s loving the depression and anxiety.
All Artwork and photos by Christy Zigweid - All Rights Reserved
I’ve turned to art and sewing to help ease the pain of difficult days and try to keep myself busy. Being a SAHM is sometimes VERY lonely, especially when your kids are all in school. And I find pleasure in small moments. I’m making it work. I’m getting by.
In the meantime, I’m still deciding if I want to make lemonade or throw them with great force back to wherever they are coming from. I hope you are not having a lemon kind of day. And if you are, know you are not alone. Take comfort in knowing it will get better in time and things will work themselves out (my husband tells me this all the time—but I’m not sure I believe him). We will have to wait and see how things pan out.
Until next time, take care of you the best way you know how. Do what you love and surround yourself with coping strategies, lots of self-care and supportive people. And if you have to manage each day one minute at a time, then so be it. At least you are still moving forward. I am proud of you!
I have a recurring memory every year around Black Friday. I'm standing in a store parking lot, waiting.
We move in small steps until finally we reach the door, and we weren't even at the end of the line. All of a sudden I'm in the middle of chaos. People grab shopping carts and push one another to get to the aisle they need. The moms get snippy with one another and I hear name calling and great big sighs.
I look over and my mother is looking at me. "I'll go this way," she says pointing to the right of the store, "And you go that way." She nods her head to toward the left of the store. "And I'll meet you in the checkout!" I quickly walk down to where i need to go and that's when I see the worst of it. I'm in the toy isle with the other parents, watching in horror as they grab things from the shelf, push one another, and yell. When they are done. They act as if nothing happened and head out of the aisle.
"There is NO WAY a toy is that important to me," I think to myself, as I stand in the aisle still staring.
Photo by Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay
I tell myself if the gift is there I will get it and if not oh well, I didn't need it in the first place. I find what I wanted to get and head to the checkout. And as we left the store, I let out a huge sigh and felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders, thankful we are done. But it doesn't last long as we pull into another store parking lot and people are acting just the same. I've never in my life seen grown women and men act like they did that day. I stopped going Black Friday shopping many years ago.
As I grow older. I'm wondering how we all became so greedy to the point where we are thankful for what we have on Thanksgiving and the same night, or even the day after Thanksgiving we head right out to shop for everything we DON'T have (my daughter made the comment on Thanksgiving). I've been thinking about it ever since. It brings to mind a quote from The Grinch:
"That's what it's all about, isn't it? That's what it's always been *about*. Gifts, gifts... gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts! You wanna know what happens to your gifts? They all come to me. In your garbage. You see what I'm saying? In your *garbage*. I could hang myself with all the bad Christmas neckties I found at the dump."
Yes, you read that right. I am quitting. I am going to stop this circus of being stuck inside my head. It’s been holding me back in my writing, parenting, and interactions with others for a long time, often making me feel as though I am not good enough at anything; a dangerous place to be when suffering from depression and anxiety.
I’m prone to the perfectionism trap as a writer and creative and it has swallowed me whole. I’ve been bogged down with feeling like I have to do everything: creating a platform, managing social media, writing a blog, writing the novel I’ve been working on since 2013, and a long list of other things indie authors are in charge of. I cannot get past the mental block inside myself when I write and often feel as though I fall short, unable to tell a good story or help anyone. All of this has become a vicious cycle of wanting to help but feeling as though I’m not, so I second guess everything and dig myself back into the hole I’ve tried so hard to get out of.
Day after day the stress of being locked inside my head, analyzing every move I make, has forced me to pull away from my family and miss out on precious moments.
It’s tearing me apart. Outside I refuse to be a supermom, but inside I am doing just that, feeling like I have to do everything on my own.
I’m here to say, I can’t do it on my own. And that’s okay. Because I’ve realized I am the one holding me back. The constant chatter in my head fed by depression and anxiety has clouded everything I do; I often can’t see through the thick fog hanging over me. While I am okay for a while, it’s not long before the chatter starts again, and I fall right back into that dark place, defeated and stuck before I’ve even moved. That’s no way to live.
This winter I’ve been caught in my own internal snowstorm, laden with icy comment daggers. Earlier I said I was quitting. Am I quitting writing? Absolutely not. Life without writing would be like hell. Am I quitting on myself? As much as my depression would like me to, I will not give up. But here’s what it does mean. It means that I am going to do things that make me feel worthwhile. And as I start to heal from all of this negative chatter and move forward, I will write about it and continue to write fiction stories. It’s time for me to step back get my priorities straight. I need to take care of myself or I fear I won’t be here to see what happens on the other side.
If you are struggling and want to give up, please don’t. Take a break. Do something you love. Give yourself permission to take the time to do these things, otherwise, you won’t be helping yourself at all.
I said in another blog post, “My illness doesn’t define me.” Your illness doesn’t define you either. Stay strong. You can quit the things that make you miserable but don’t give up on yourself. The world needs you.
This post also appears as a guest post on ConquerWorry.org
Photo by Christy Zigweid
If you’ve spent any amount of time looking through my website, you will see I am a supporter of mental illness and advocacy. I also write fiction and blog posts that are hard to read because of their honesty. Why do I do this? Because I believe people shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
As I write this I am very aware of the ripple effects it may have. But I've lived in silence too long and now it’s time to share my story.
It’s time to step out of hiding and say “You can’t hold me down anymore. I will fight you each and every time, even if every time you make it harder and harder to crawl out.” I am not my illness.
I’ve battled depression and generalized anxiety disorder for many years (I was diagnosed in high school). I have worn the mask, hiding my illness from people, afraid if I let on just a little bit I was struggling, my friends and family would suffer. I live with darkness and suicide every day. It's a battle I’ve learned to manage. I sit with myself often, enduring the self-loathing my illness projects onto me, waiting until it passes. Sometimes that’s a few hours; sometimes it's days.
Yes, I’ve been there, staring suicide right in the face.
And while I know this will be hard for many to read (especially my family), it is a truth of my everyday life.
In my times of utter despair, I have to remind myself what I’ll be leaving behind if I go through with it. All I have to do is picture my husband and kids and while the power to give up overwhelms me, I hold on to that ONE thing. Because it’s my family who keeps me here. It’s my closest friends who remind me how much I’ve touched their lives, or their children’s lives, just by being me. Those are the things I hold on to. Those are the things that eventually pull me out and bring me back into what’s real.
Through the years my husband and I have learned to deal with the ups and downs, the good days and the bad.
We’ve worked out a system and we trudge on, knowing the downs will come again, but being better prepared each time for when they hit. This is why I am a supporter of mental health advocacy, suicide awareness, and suicide prevention.
Without the support of my husband, I don’t know that I would be here today writing about my story. My illness is very scary for those around me as well as for myself.
My husband only wants to help but often doesn’t know how. My children see the effects but don’t understand why mom is “sad” or “freaked out.” It’s hard watching your family struggle and knowing you are partially the cause. It’s scary sitting with your own thoughts, part of you knowing they are lying and part of you knowing they are not. It’s hard to sort through the truth and the lies.
I am learning to know myself better as a writer and as a person. And while I’ve been denying the truth about sharing my story, I've hindered progress in taking the right steps to move forward. Some people believe we have a “calling” in life. While I do not believe we have a pre-determined path to our lives, I do believe in fate. I do believe we are all here for a reason. I was born nearly three months early and weighed two pounds two ounces. At the time of my birth, hospitals were just figuring out how to care for premature babies. I survived.
I survive today, despite my illness telling me I have no purpose here. I will never be “cured,” just as someone with a chronic illness will tell you. But I can share my story with others. I can own my illness as part of me but not all of me.
I can continue to take care of myself and live out this “calling” I feel compelled to do.
I also credit people who have helped me step out on this limb. My husband, my very close friends, my writing group friends, a group called “This is My Brave," and Conquer Worry. These people have opened my eyes to the fact I don’t have to live in silence anymore, pretending to be something I am not.
My illness is only a part of me. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a human being. Do I have flaws? Absolutely, but they don’t define me and they are not “all” of me.
THIS POST ALSO APPEARS AS A GUEST POST ON CONQUERWORRY.ORG
I hated going to auctions when I was little. When the auctioneer started the bids, it was like sensory overload. I could never figure out what he was saying and all I wanted to do was run out the door. My anxiety feels exactly like that. Only certain words pop out and it’s always the bad ones. “What are you going to do when — happens?”, “You need to…”, “You should have…” Before I know it, I’m sick to my stomach, sweating, and feel like my heart is going to explode in my chest.
My mind becomes a flurry of unrelated racing thoughts that I cannot get together because they are all vying for attention at the same moment. The stronger the emotions get, the more I cannot focus.
My body is in constant fight or flight mode from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed. And while I can dull my mind by watching TV, reading, listening to music, or playing a game, my anxiety is waiting for me when I stop those activities. I know I’ve had an anxious day when my teeth hurt from subconsciously clenching them, or when my head hurts most of the day or all of the muscles in my shoulders feel like a board across my back. When I’m in anxiety mode, I cannot concentrate. I cannot focus. I cannot think positively. The emotions and physical reactions are so strong I want to throw up and run away. I cannot remind myself that anxiety, like depression, is a liar.
I’ve learned to recognize the signs of anxiety for myself: racing heart, teeth clenching, stomach aches, and sweaty hands. I’ve gotten so used to living with it I think there are times when I ignore it, which isn’t good. When I feel myself becoming anxious I try to get my logical mind involved, especially in cases where I am freaking out about something for an extended period of time. It’s helpful to repeat mantras like: “It’s not true.” or “That’s not happening right now, this minute.” I try hard to practice mindfulness, even though I struggle with focusing myself into the present. I sometimes call a friend or loved one and talk about what’s going on. I’ve found that if I journal about my anxiety, it loses its power and grip on me, and then I can logically think myself through it. For me, deep breathing exercises help the most as well as having a strong support system.
Some anxiety is good for you, buying a house or car, moving to a new location, or having kids, just to name a few. But it can become a problem if it’s constant. Don’t feel bad about seeking help. Statistics state anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the US ages 18 and older but only about a third of those suffering get treatment. The CDC has a great section on their website of resources that are helpful. There are also many blogs out there to help with anxiety. The top anxiety blogs of 2015 can be found HERE.
The most important thing to know is you are not alone. Anxiety is treatable. Help is out there.
￼Today I am featured as a guest blogger on This Is My Brave, Inc., a website dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness by sharing stories.
No material on this website can be used without permission. All Rights Reserved. Christy Zigweid - 2018
**I am not a licensed counselor nor a medical doctor and the views on this website are solely mine. **
If you are in crisis and need immediate medical assistance, call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- (TALK) 8255 or text "Start" to 741-741
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