Have you had a day like this before? Your anxiety spikes and all of your insecurities come to the surface. Your mind ruminates on the past, the decisions you’ve made, and the ones that still need to be made. You berate yourself for your mistakes, and a voice creeps in that tells you that you are unworthy, and even sometimes unlovable. Maybe you can’t get out of bed because your anxiety or depression feels so intense and real that you can’t face the world. Perhaps everything is going well in your life right now, and you are confused with why you can’t seem to shake this. And maybe you know exactly why you feel like this, and you wish things could change.
This was me the other day. It was beautiful out even though the temperatures are still in the teens here in Minnesota. The sun was shining, and I was able to spend the day with my family. I knew I should be thankful and happy, but still, my chest was tight, and I wanted to lock myself in my room and cry. It was exhausting to get through the day with a smile on my face, but I did it, and thankfully slept soundly that night with a brighter morning.
I have had days, weeks, months, and even years like this through my entire life. As a child, I suffered from a severe anxiety disorder that landed me in a mental hospital when I was 9. At the time no one talked about mental illness, and along with my anxiety, I developed an intense sense of shame. After years of hard work, the anxiety is not the defining aspect of my life anymore, but it is still there and most likely always will be. I had gone through periods in my life when it was just a distant memory, and times when it overcame me again. Sometimes it has come out of the blue, and at others, it has been related to life events, such as marriage, having a child, and the change of a career.
Since being on this journey for so long, I have come to realize that so many women can relate to what I have gone through and continue to. For some, it is through the anxieties and fears that come with being a mother, a spouse, a friend, or even the expectations placed on us as women. It has come from a culture that often wants us to be perfect and happy in all we do, and media that consistently feeds us images to compare our lives to. For some, it is a mental illness, like mine, and we are ashamed to admit to it. We’ve been told we are broken, or odd, or that we should just get over it somehow. And for some, it has stemmed out of being hurt and abused by others, in a place we should feel safe such as home or the church.
In this blog I will be sharing more of my journey with you from the time when I was a child living in a mental hospital, to now as a mom, wife, artist and Christ follower with often more questions than answers. I will be sharing openly and honestly about my struggles with anxiety and depression, the stresses of being a mom, and my many failures that have often come before some of the happiest times in my life. I’ll share what I continue to learn about accepting myself as a strong woman after believing my calling in life was to be meek and mild, and my continuing journey of faith that “religion” often got in the way of.
Along with this, I will be sharing some of the many ways that I have found healing and hope over the years. As you can tell from above, I do not have everything together, and I know I never will (it has taken me years to accept this!). I have learned so many beautiful lessons that continue to teach me how to love who I am and see the joy that is around me now. One of the most incredible gifts that I have learned to use to heal is the gift of art and creating. I often use photography for expression, and I will be sharing not only some of the work that I produce but how you too can find a voice through the creative process.
If you have read something here that sounds familiar to you, I invite you to join me here. I want to hear your experiences and create a community where we can stumble forward together. I know some of you may not be in a place to share yet and my hope for you is that even just listening can help you feel not as alone.
I have been going through a beautiful book and class called Journey to Freedom by Scott Reall. Today’s section reminded me of why I have had the pull on my heart to share my journey with anxiety and depression, and why I am drawn to those who share their painful stories as well. “It’s so freeing to hear that other people struggle, too. We realize that we aren’t alone- and that’s universality. We begin to open up and feel hope. We feel a sense of companionship and community with others. We’re in this together.”
With much love and welcome,
Whitney Leigh Carlson