The past year has been a very difficult one for me and my family.
I wish I could say that I clung fast to my faith throughout the past twelve months. I wish I could tell you that God was my shelter and my fortress, that I remained lifted in my heart and spirit because I leaned on him. I wish I could continue to paste on a smile and say everything will be fine and that I’m fine.
Except I’m haven’t, I didn’t, I won’t and I’m not.
This past year we’ve been thrown into the fire and instead of the embers burning down, someone keeps stoking that fire until it burns hotter and brighter every single day. I’m hoping maybe that means we’ll come out stronger for it – but right now, it doesn’t feel that way.
Full disclosure: life is really hard right now and I’m feeling broken.
In the last twelve months we have circled our wagons as a family and surrounded one of my daughters who suffering with mental health issues. Some days/weeks/months it looked like things would be okay. Other times it looked like they’d never be the same again. Right now, I have no idea what anything looks like.
I do know this. I can’t keep going the way I have been.
I’ve worn blinders. I’ve been focused on my family, on my daughter, on my obligations and promises I’d made to others and forgot about focusing on myself. I went on a few trips when I thought things were okay and used those times as a rejuvenation and I can honestly say those trips were probably what kept me going, kept me sane, kept that well within my soul full…
But right now, all of life has come to a stand still. As it should.
This is the perfect moment for me to step back and take stock. It’s been a long year and at times it’s felt like we haven’t moved at all and yet, when I stop looking at the big picture and take notice of all the moments within this past year – I see we’ve actually moved/improved/grown quite a bit.
When someone within your family is struggling with mental health issues, it affects everyone. You start walking on tiptoes unsure of how to act, respond, react. You start to watch your words more carefully – measure them before speaking and then beret yourself because you should have realized the damage your words can inflict – even when you have the best of meanings. You start to dampen the fire of your own emotions, step back and let life pass you by rather than fully participating in it. You know that one day you’ll be back in full form but right now, you’re hiding beneath that blanket, the same blanket your loved one is hiding beneath because…well, to be honest, it’s just easier.
We didn’t always remain beneath that blanket though. We crawled out from beneath it at times to stand strong and to stand in God.
- My marriage is a lot stronger because of this past year.
The communication within our home is more honest. We’re all learning to be open with each other. Sometimes too open but I’ll take it.
- My husband and I are working together more as a team when it comes to parenting our three teenage daughters. We are becoming stronger parents and it has changed a lot of the dynamic in our home for the better.
- I’ve learned to slow down when it comes to my expectations. My writing schedule has changed – and in the hustle and bustle within the indie writing world where people are panicking about having to push out more content, I’m stepping back and focusing on my storytelling, making it as strong and as honest as I can. It’s the only thing I can do right now and it feels like the right decision (which means my readers may have to wait a little longer in between books but it’ll be worth it).
I also made a lot of mistakes while hiding beneath that blanket.
- I let my heart grow numb. I was in pain, am in pain and rather than reach out for help, I withdrew, thinking I had to prove I was stronger than I really was.
- I gave myself a time frame and when we passed it without any changes, the disappointment almost tore me a part. In fact, I’m still reeling from it. When this nightmare began March 2016, I thought for sure by the time the new year came, we’d be fine. Our family would be fine. My daughter would be fine. We’re anything but fine.
- I allowed negativity to seep into my heart. I thought I was fine. It’s starting to show now – in my words, in my emotions, in my actions and I don’t like it. In fact, I was up all night realizing that I was becoming someone I don’t recognize anymore and I don’t like it.
- When the going gets tough, I withdraw. I become distant with friends. With my husband. With my family. I guard my heart, my emotions until it becomes too much and then I overreact. I see myself doing that now and it’s not okay.
It’s time to change my own narrative. It’s time to change my thought pattern, how I deal with situations that arise, how I handle my emotions. It’s time for me to change the direction I’m going.
I’m the only one who can change my narrative. It won’t be easy. It’ll be hard and for all the steps forward I take, I know I’ll have to backtrack a time or two. But it won’t stop me. I can’t let it. It’s time for me to come out from beneath that blanket, to stop hiding, to start facing reality.
How will I do this?
- By changing my thought pattern. By focusing on the good, the right, the true. By hitting the delete button on all those negative emotions that threaten to overwhelm me. By choosing to stand to stand tall rather than curl up in a ball.
- My days will start on the right path. With devotion, prayer and a lot of coffee. I will focus on me – on being healthy, on strengthening my own heart and mind before I focus on anything else.
- By watching what I say and how I say it. By choosing to focus on the good and not the bad. By choosing words of life rather than words of death.
- By being honest with myself, my husband, my children and my friends rather than wearing a facade of “I’m okay, I’m good, I’ve got this.”
- By leaning on God. My number on mistake this past year. I didn’t lean on Him the way I should have – it’s why I’m now empty when I should be full.
The first step is realizing my narrative needs to change. The next step is making sure it happens. I can only do this one step at a time. I know I’ll head back beneath that blanket…but it won’t be to hide, it’ll be to support my daughter when she needs it. She has her own narrative that needs to change – something she’s in the process of learning how to do with the right professionals who can help her do it.
This is me changing my own narrative. This is my first step. Wish me luck.
I’m very sorry for the difficulties you’re experiencing, Steena.
I realized, when my older daughter was 16 (nearly 30 years ago) that she had a hormone imbalance. There was just no living with her – it was a constant roller coaster ride. Eventually, after serving a stint in the US Marine Corps, she was diagnosed as bi-polar. I, personally, believe she also has borderline personality disorder.
One just never knows what to expect when dealing with mental health issues because it is so very difficult and unpredictable. My heart goes out to you.
May God support and sustain you and your entire family, especially your daughter who, I’m sure, doesn’t want to deal with this any more than the rest of you do.
Steena I think where there are teenagers there is a lot going on in their lives and sometimes it is deeper than they show. As in case of my granddaughter she had been thru a really tough life and i kept talking to her I being in Ia and she being in Ca I didn’t see her. Well then I got a call from my daughter and then i knew what was going on and she was physically harming herself copying a singer doing the same thing. For my granddaughter she thought well the singer did this to get rid of the pain she went into the bathroom and did the same thing the only thing is that the problems were still there. I feel since not only my own life having major setbacks from foster homes to foster brother who did things that were bad and i hated it and told him and he threated i would go then to other marriage things then i myself having 2 adults children and 1 step child then left them and moved to ia and married gaining another step child who went thru teen issues before moving to ia i volunteered with the foster system for 8 years 50 hrs a week or more then dealing so much in teen issues , I have learned they all have issues but then some of them have and it is terrible to say major issues that we chalk up to teens years and to deal with it both parents have to be so strong and work together lovingly and also include all the teens watching that someone isn’t getting left out or an issue isn;t overlooked as then they carry into adulthood and that is not something we want them to do. You give a lot of yourself and when there isn;t time for yourself and prayer and just to pull yourself together and look on the inside from the outside we lose that focus as if we ourselves aren;t 100% then we can;t help others who are having a huge meltdown. I so understand your change and that it is necessary in order to keep your sanity and deal with those who have your heart. Steena you are a wonderful person and a wonderful parent and will be praying for you and your entire family and of course thinking of you as i always do!
Thank you Peggy…you have some great words of advice there. Remembering to focus on myself is also important – even if it’s just little ‘me’ moments.
you sweet sweet sweet woman. as i sit here and read… the best I can as i am loosing my sight. I think of what i go thru each day as a mom, wife and grandma (DUcky) who lives with anxieties and depression. i know it is hard on my family but i try to make it easier for them. I lift up your family and your daughter in prayers along beside mine. It is not a easy road we follow that is for sure but it is one that can be traveled successfully. i don’t know what your daughter bless her is struggling with but myself the best thing i found after over 25 years of searching was Functional Medicine. i love your books and i will keep you all in my prayers. Shweet Sandi
Thank you for the prayers Sandi!
You’ve taken so many steps..forward.
I am so happy you took another big step by telling all of us what happened.
I believe, there is power of people prayers when they all are praying for the same thing.
Now you need to move forward and believe everything will work out!!!!
We are always here for you.
Im very proud of you, as I’m sure we ALL are.
You are doing great … keep God in your life, and always, and remember we are all here for you if or when you want to talk!!
Praying for your family. My own family has been through our share of mental health issues. My eldest son, when he was a teen. My youngest son, throughout his twenties. I myself suffer from severe depressive disorder with PTSD since my late thirties. Thankfully I am able to live a mostly normal life with medication and talk therapy. My heart goes out to you and your entire family. Mental health issues do take quite a toll on the household. Know that you are not alone and that you can endure and overcome all things with God.
Our family has gone through a similar crucible. I, however, am the one who causes it. My health continues to throw our family in chaos. My heart hurts for them because in the midst of my pain I can’t feel theirs. It’s too much. It is only after I start to feel better that I can see it. Then,like any mom, like you, I put my whole self into trying to make up for the pain I have caused. That treadmill has inevitably brought me right back to illness.
I don’t know what you are exactly facing but if it’s like us, part of the journey was redefining roles. I was no longer supermom and my quiet laid back husband had to become a stalwart champion. I guess I want to prepare you for that possibility that this won’t be the last time you are in crisis. Your expectations for your daughter and hers for you will change. It’s like world building in fiction writing. It will look completely foreign but it will still have structure, rules.
God has been my lifeline. My other half. He has brought great healing – believe for his miracles. And he has met me in the valley of the shadow of death. But He reminds me that He created the valley too and it is his rod and his staff that know the way out. The secret is not to live in the shadow, the fear, the disappointment but to live where He placed me to rest. Because even if I can’t see how or where or when the valley will become a mountain again. There is joy even in the sorrow. My prayers are with you and your family.
We love you! You have a big support system. What ever you need, let me know. HUGS
I’m so sorry to hear this. You are a strong women of God and even though you felt you weren’t leaning on him when you should have been he was always there by your side and with your family…you know that. I pray continued strength for all of you and you WILL get through this as a family…
We do go through things that don’t seem fair and that’s ok to feel that way. I know I did….why me I would say…BUT I’m stronger than I have ever been.
I will continue to hold up in my prayers… Please take care of yourself.
Just know you are loved, prayed for, and treasured…God’s got this!!!!!!!!! Rest in that.
Love you all.
Aunt Marie xo
What a brave, beautiful, soul-baring post. ❤️ I envy your ability to be so open about your struggles, and I pray you feel us out here, lifting you and your family up in prayer. You are not alone. *hugs*
What an emotional and enlightening piece, Steena. You always write from your heart. It is a blessing.
Life is an ever changing web and we rarely know what is next. Living in fear is so much harder than living in faith. We often don’t know what the future holds. And that is scary. That blanket can be a really easy way to keep the scary and unknown out. Except it never goes away. It is still there when you peek out.
You have taken some bold steps. Finding the right help for your daughter. Changing the dynamic in your family toward the positive with more openness and honesty. Coming together in many aspects with your husband. And finding the joy in each day even if it is just the sunset. There is always something. Taking time outs during the day are great. They are start overs. They also work when negativity arises. Time out for 30 minutes then everyone must return. Calms the energy and approach. And that blanket is always there. For security and support. As a pick me up when you are feeling like you just want to give up.
You have more strength than you know, Steena. It is clear in this writing alone. But over the years as you have shared things you have this amazing underlying strength. Always know it is there, especially when you feel weak. And always know rejuvenation is necessary for all…in whatever form that is for each of you.
Hugs, prayers and love to you and your family.
Thank you for sharing! Your heart is beautiful. Warts and all. Please lean on your friends. We want to be there for you. It even helps us to help you! Love you, my friend.
I always go back to Philippians 4:8 when I feel myself going off the rails.
Dear Steena. Life is hard, Sometimes we don’t have a choice in what Life deals us, it happens and the only way through it is with God by your side, carrying you through the rough spots. So no matter what keep up your faith, this too will past but don’t let it destroy you. God promised never to leave us alone. You have been blessed with a wonderful writing talent. He will provide a way for you. So keep looking up. God Bless! Prayers for you.
Dear dear Steena ~ I’m wiping away tears as I read this. No one said life would be easy, but you have faced greater challenges in the past year than could be imagined. You are right. Change is necessary and change is good. Not always easy. Your friends are here for whatever you and your family need from us. Just ask.
Change is hard but it’s necessary, right? As much as it might frighten me, standing still frightens me more. I’d rather move forward, no matter what that looks like than remaining in this holding pattern.
Thanks for your support and love Patricia! It means more to me than you know!