Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Falling off the Wagon

This is an uncomfortable post to write. Up until now I've talked a lot about PAST struggles and PAST challenges and OTHER PEOPLE"S pain. It feels pretty safe to say "I used to be a disaster, and look how far i've come". The last couple weeks have been rough. Messy and ugly in more ways than i can describe.  Now that i've had some time to reflect on it, I can give some thoughts about what went wrong and how I (and hopefully you) can gain wisdom and understanding form that about the nature of mental and emotional health.

First you have to know that last week I fell off the wagon, HARD. Not a graceful fall, but an ugly crying, skinned knees, gash in my head kind of fall. What wagon, you may ask? The
Happy,Healthy wagon.  I found myself in such a negative, dark, hopeless place that I couldn't see my way out. I've written pretty openly about how I USED to be really sad and I USED to be hopeless and I USED to be full of shame. And last week, I found out that those things are there, lurking under the surface, waiting to rear their ugly head if I get lazy.

It all started with weight loss. I committed to a super strict no-carb, no-sugar, no-fat eating plan to shed a few pounds. Food is something I have used for years to cope with the little stresses of every day life, and I eliminated that coping mechanism. Strike #1. As part of the low calorie eating plan, I had to refrain from exercise. Strike #2. Then I read a book by Brenee Brown called "Gifts of Imperfection" and experienced a sort of breakdown/awakening about all the shame I have been trying to run from for so many years. It was so much to process emotionally. Strike #3. Add to that a traveling husband, a bout of family food poisoning, a total lack of structure and schedule, and you have a perfect storm. A storm of negativity that shed massive amounts of wind and rain and sleet on our family and left some emotional wreckage in its wake.

In the midst of this storm, it looked like nothing good existed in my world. I felt hopeless and alone and like a failure at life. And because that pain was too much to hold onto, I tried to transfer it to other people. Suddenly my kids were lazy (never mind the vomiting-suck it up!), my husband was unsupportive (also vomiting, in a  hotel room 1000 miles away), I was ugly (again, illness is not attractive), I was in terrible shape (30 days of no exercise), the yard was a mess (it's fall; leaves are messy), and the list goes on and on. It seems totally ridiculous now, but at the time, ti FELT so real and so reasonable and so final. Perhaps you've been there. I was grumpy and critical and complaining and sad. I was nothing like the person I have chosen to be. I was a disaster mentally, emotionally, and physically.

For a moment, I felt fear that I was losing it. All the traction I had gained over years of recovery had fallen apart and someone would haul me into a professional;s office who would prescribe something to change me and make me into something "acceptable" and "stable".  But what I needed was not a drug. What I needed was perspective, space to think, and some solid coping skills. At some point, I reached out to my sister who has know me long enough to know I needed a stern talking to which she promptly delivered. And then she sent me flowers. Those flowers gave me a ray of hope. And then I decided that some fresh air would do me good, so I went into my back yard. And then i decided that if I went for a walk, it would be even better, so I did. And then I realized I hadn't taken my supplements in about 4 days, so I took them. And then I remembered that I hadn't been using my oils, so I opened the bottle and took a deep breath, and felt the clouds begin to part. And then I was back. One tiny choice at a time, and I was back.

I am so grateful for this experience because of what it taught me. I am not invincible. I am not broken, but i must be vigilant. I cannot be lazy or half-hearted about my own physical and mental health. If I am to be the woman I want to be and the wife and mother I choose to be, I have to take care of ME. I have to be gentle with myself. I cannot attempt to do more than I am able. I must exercise every single day. I must take my supplements every single day. I must choose to see the positive every single day. I have to respect the stability and security that comes from the daily routines that others may call rigid or extreme. I have a deep respect for the ability they give me to live a drug free, authentic existence. Please have the courage to fight for your own health every single day, one moment, one drop, one choice at a time.  And if you fall off the wagon, its okay, just get back on;)


  1. I appreciate your honesty and reminder that we have to do self care. I had a similar experience earlier this month but the big difference was I was still taking my drugs. The drugs that saved my life and my marriage several years ago because I was diagnosed BiPolar. While I like to use natural remedies as much as possible and believe me I tried everything out there before a went to my psychiatrist I'm a firm believer that I wouldn't be here today without my pills! Because even with those if I don't take care of myself I can fall apart in a perfect storm. I guess my point is that I'm happy that you can live a drug free life but please, I'm not saying you do, please be supportive of those that do :)

  2. I meant to say I'm not saying you don't!!! Sorry :/

  3. This is a wonderful post, Jeneen. It's a reminder to all of us that we are all human and vulnerable to the stresses of life. Our progress isn't linear, it's like waves on the ocean and sometimes we get "knocked down" or over but you live aware that being knocked over isn't the end......if we keep getting back up by doing what works and by the grace of friends and God! Love you friend.

  4. Jen, I appreciate your honesty too! I understand that not everyone will choose the same path for managing their mental health and that is Ok! We all have a different experience and my personal journey has taught me that for me, meds are not the answer. The negative side effects outweigh the positive benefits for me. What I hope this post demonstrates is that that doesn't mean it's EASY. It doesn't mean I'm better than anyone else. It means I have to be super careful and super vigilant about my self care and the techniques I use to keep my self in check or it gets ugly. In the old days, I hated it when anytime I had a rough day someone would ask me if I'd "taken my pills" if who I am at the core is unacceptable without a modifier. This experience taught me that nowadays I need to ask myself every day if I've done the things that for me are every ounce as important as meds to those who take that route.

  5. Cindy, that's the very topic I was talking with my therapist about this week. I really want progress to be linear! I want to just get better and better and have it stay that way! It's true that healing looks a lot more like peaks and valleys, just that the valleys get further apart and not quite as deep. I started a habit as a result of this episode of documenting all the great things my husband does every day so that when another valley hits, I'll have evidence that the negative perspective is not true. "All these things shall give thee experience" is definitely true for me.