I have always been an artsy sort of person. When I was in elementary school I loved art and music class. I played the bells when I was a fifth grader (my one and only time playing in a band — ironic I married a band director). I sang in the choir throughout middle school and high school. I learned how to play the piano (my favorite instrument). I am a scrapbooker and make homemade cards. There is not one thing I do each day that doesn’t involve music or art on some level.
Why Music Matters for Healing
1. Music can help calm and soothe
I would venture to say many people have a song or type of music which calms them down. For me, it’s spa/instrumental music. For my husband, it’s obnoxious heavy metal music. I recently found an app called “Relax Melodies” (iTunes) (Android)which provides different music and sounds you can mix together to form your own unique sounds. I use these when I fly (I have horrible flying anxiety) and when I just want something soothing. You can also set the volume of each sound to your liking. My son uses this app every night when he goes to bed. Most nights I have it on to stop my mind from racing.
2. Music can motivate you
How many times have you been browsing the music section and seen compilations of music for working out? Or know people who have a set playlist they use when working or doing homework? How about someone who listens to a certain song before they get out of bed to help them start the day? I listen to music when I’m cleaning house, driving in the car, and writing, just to name a few. And I listen to music when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode. No matter the type of music, it can help us to be productive as well as calm us down.
3. Music can pull you out of a tough spot
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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.
We live in a culture where women (and stay-at-home dads or single dads) are conditioned to believe we should “do it all.” We should have the perfect marriage, children, job, and home. The old cliche of suburban America is still ripe within our culture. Time and time again, we see this portrayed in our own lives as well as television, movies and books. My question is why?
What women do on a daily basis to take care of their families is admirable. Regardless of whether we are stay-at-home moms or working moms, we all want one thing: what’s best for our families.
While I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for eight years, there’s one thing that makes me bristle: supermoms. Now before you get all huffy and start shouting obscenities or writing hate mail, just hear me out.
Why Being a Supermom Isn’t a Good Idea When You Have a Mental Illness
1. You stretch yourself too thin, unable to take care of yourself too
I’m a huge advocate for taking care of yourself, especially mentally. Taking care of ourselves is something as women we often neglect, regardless of whether we are married or single, with or without kids. We often think we need to sacrifice ourselves for our kids.
Selfish as it may seem, I won’t sacrifice my health or who I am as a person just to show I can do it all. Because the truth is…I don’t want to do it all. If I stretch myself so thin, what good am I as a parent and a wife?
2. You feed into competitiveness
There is fierce competitiveness between women, especially in regard to parenting. Many of the moms I’ve been around are nearly intolerable. They are rude and catty, and many are phony. They are peacocks, flashing their feathers, saying, “Look at me! See how good I can be. I have a perfect life. I have the perfect kids.” And should the truth be known, behind closed doors, it’s a very different picture.
Women gossip and compare their kids, there is no denying it. And while I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never done this, I refuse to speak those thoughts out loud and play the game. I have no desire to feed into their comments: “I’m a better home-school teacher than you.” “My kids have created cooler crafts.” “Oh, look what my special kids did today.” “My kids don’t eat that.” “My kids don’t do that.”
3. You feel obligated to over-schedule your life and your kids
There is a need in the modern American family to constantly be going and be involved. In our fast-paced lives, we rarely slow down and take the time to relax. The day starts very early in the morning and ends late at night, leaving us feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, only to get up and do it again the next day, not realizing how thin we wear ourselves down. I think it’s important to teach our kids balance between obligations, fun, and taking care of ourselves.
“Trying to be Supermom is as futile as trying to be Perfect Mom. Not going to happen. ~ Arianna Huffington ~
Sound off, give me your thoughts on this situation. I look forward to reading your comments!
When faced with challenges in life, we all have ways we cope. But what happens when you suffer from anxiety? Things can seem ten times worse and it’s easy to get lost in negativity. For those of you who suffer from anxiety, I hope this short story helps. And if I can leave you with one thought: always remember there are rainbows after a storm.
I have tried to fight it off but I can feel it coming, slowly brewing deep inside. The darkness is forming and moving closer, taking on its threatening shape. I’ve seen darkness like this before but I convince myself this time is different. This time is worse. This time it won’t work out. I feel my breaths come in shorter intervals and the air is being locked out of my lungs; it’s nothing short of feeling like I’m suffocating.
I’ve tried for an hour to find the silver lining but it’s hidden in the darkness. And now I am losing control.
“Everything will be okay,” Brandon says from behind me and I feel his hands on my shoulders.
I want to believe him but the overbearing storm is upon me. It has finally taken over my mind and negative voices scream inside me. This time it’s going to be bad. I just know it. This time we won’t be okay. This time I won’t hold on. I will quit.
“You know there’s no way we could have predicted this,” Brandon says as he turns my face to him, his eyes searching. “It sucks that nothing seems to be going right. But just because it’s something different this time doesn’t mean we haven’t seen this storm before.”
I know he’s right. I turn from him and sit on the couch, hands in my lap, fidgeting. “What are we going to do when the money runs out?”
“We’ll figure it out.”
And what if we don’t? I grab Brandon’s hand and squeeze, holding on. If you had just… I shake my head, trying to get the thoughts to go away but they dig their claws in and hold on tight. It’s been one thing after another and I’ve hit the threshold..
Before I know it, tears are falling from my eyes and I’m blubbering like a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum, rage building inside, hot and debilitating. My mind will win this time. It always does. It always unravels me. I cannot think straight. And more than anything, I cannot breathe. It’s terrifying, every time it happens. My chest pounds and hurts and I wonder for a fleeting moment, Is this what a major heart attack feels like?
I grab handfuls of my hair, the pressure at my scalp offering comfort from the negativity and madness swirling in my mind. “This cannot keep happening. Something’s got to give,” I say.
Brandon puts his hands on mine, pressing gently, trying to get me to let go but I refuse. I try to take a breath, but my lungs continue to lock out the air. I feel the room closing in on me. I’m getting dizzy.
“You’ve got to breathe.” Brandon says.
I look up and see the fear in his eyes. I see myself reflected in his eyes, a monster losing control. He wraps his arms around me and my rigid body stays there a few seconds before collapsing against him. I force myself to take deep breaths. I focus my mind on this one moment as I take in the smell of his aftershave and allow the warmth of his body to calm me. After two long breaths I feel the storm start to slow. The pains in my chest are slowly going away. Gaining control once more, I take deep breaths and feel myself return to the here and now.
My mind is starting to give up; it knows it’s defeated. With Brandon by my side it cannot win. And I know when I finally regain logical thinking, the negativity will slither away. I know the storm will come again at some point, but I will make it through, even if my mind tries to convince me otherwise and make it worse than the last time.
I will be prepared next time. Because every time it happens I become stronger. I refuse to quit. I refuse to give in. I refuse to let it win.
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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