Last week I posted what Project 35×35 meant. If you missed it, click here. This week, we are talking about WHY this project means so much.
Let me start by saying this post is a very personal post that is sensitive in nature and and even longer than last week (sorry). It shares some of my darkest secrets and it’s hard to publish – I’ve tried for months, re-writing it over and over – but I feel this post is necessary to take Project 35×35 to the next level and ultimately succeed. I am praying that my story will help encourage others who may be in the same boat. So here goes.
I suffer from chronic depression.
Chronic depression is a disease. Half the world lives on some sort of antidepressant to battle this horrible disease. Depression steals your energy, your joy, your sanity and will destroy you. Every setback, every failure is crippling. Every negative thing said or implied is a personal attack. Telling someone who is depressed to “cheer up” is not only useless (because they don’t know how) but actually makes it worse because now being happy is just one more thing they ‘can’t get right.’ It is a disease so many people suffer from, and yet those of us who suffer feel like we are alone in our fight. I know I’m not alone. I know that failure is normal. I know that I am loved. I know that sulking around is selfish. I know all of these things and yet when I am alone in my thoughts it’s like those facts no longer exist. Depression thrives in the dark.
When I say depression, I am not talking the kind of casual sadness that you get when you mess something up or the kind you get when your team loses. I’m talking about the debilitating, mind-warping depression that will control your life to the point you are convinced you no longer can. It is a battle of the mind and it is exhausting. It is a battle I have fought since before my early teens. Growing up in the ‘typical’ dysfunctional family as a heavy set child who wasn’t allowed to hang out with her friends (which I never had) was more than I could handle. There were many, many days where I was certain I would lose this battle, even times I raised my white flag and tried to surrender just to stop the pain, the pressure, the thoughts. If it weren’t for my church and people praying for me when I was younger, I am not convinced I would be here at all. Yes, I am being honest (and very vulnerable), but it’s necessary to share so you know where I’m coming from.
Meeting John 16 years ago was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. While I felt he should have realized I was crazy and ran from day one, for whatever reasons (I may never truly understand) he fell in love with me, unconditionally. At first, you would think that would alleviate my depression – and at times, it did. But far too often, it drove me even further into a depressive state because I was so convinced I didn’t deserve him. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t successful enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t happy enough… This led to years of unwarranted jealousy, emotional walls, and tormented sleep while I imagined every day would be my last with him. Looking back it saddens me to think of how much useless energy I gave to those thoughts.
Not only did he not leave me, he married me (for which I am forever grateful). Flash forward several years and we have been married for 11 years and now have Ethan and Lucas. The love that occurs when you become a mother is like nothing else. It is wonderful. It is surreal. It is something I cherish deeply. But even with that love and knowing 2 boys counted on me for survival, the battle continued, and in some ways got worse. The pressure of being “successful” to provide for them, needing to work but wanting to be a stay-at-home mommy, gaining 30lbs, having a toddler who is anything but easy, and failing at impossible goals I set for myself daily did nothing but strengthen the wrong team and last summer I hit a new low – a low that scared me like it never had before. I was in a state similar to my teenage years where life didn’t seem worth it but this time I had a family I adored and was fighting to live for. Somehow I had convinced myself they would be better off without me. I simply wasn’t ‘good enough’ for them. My nights became very dark and my days very long. I began seeking motivational books, posts, people, God. I needed hope. And fast.
Then last fall something happened. Call it a mid-life crisis, if you will. Call it a wake-up call. Call it a miracle. Call it whatever you want because I don’t really have a name for it – but something happened.
I’m sure I’ll lose a few of you here. It will sound crazy, I know it. But stick with me to the end, if you can.
As I sat at the table one morning logging into my computer, I heard these thoughts – “You say you are depressed because you’ve failed, but the only person that has ever told you that you have failed is you. You quit (and call it failure) because it’s easier than what it takes to succeed and your depression gives you the excuse to quit. You are in a cycle that will continue forever until you stop letting it. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to live healthy. You can choose to succeed. But you don’t. Stop making excuses and be who you were intended to be.”
I bawled. Sobbed hysterically would probably be a better description. It was true.
I made a decision that day that I was going to stop the cycle. I was doing it for me, for my husband who has stood by me through all the meltdowns, for my children. I no longer wanted to be the weakling who just couldn’t do anything right. I no longer wanted to be the wife too self-conscious to relax, laugh or just be herself. I no longer wanted to be the mom who was constantly down on herself in front of her kids. I didn’t want to be the person I was that day. I knew I had to change myself. It was a turning point for me.
So what does ‘stopping the cycle’ mean exactly? A lot of things. It means doing things for me that make me a better person. Exercising. Eating healthy. Focusing on the positive. Praying. Choosing to be happy. Laughing out loud. Letting go of the hurt and lies that have consumed me for so many years. No longer holding back on life. Taking risks. Giving my family the wife and mother they deserve. Anyone who has suffered from depression knows what I mean. Project 35×35 may be named for my specific weight loss goals, but it stands for so much more than that. It means changing my life.
So why the broadcast of my personal baggage? Because depression is an internal battle of the mind. It attacks your thoughts and your emotions, and trying to combat those things alone is hard. By making my depression public, it’s as if I’m shining a light on it and calling it out. It’s no longer a dark secret if others know it’s there. I can no longer sit in a corner and sulk because no one knows what I’m ‘going through.’ Sulking feeds those negative thoughts and I’m taking away opportunities to do so by making my life more public and keeping myself busy. Do I still fight depressive thoughts? Of course I do. Every day. But the meltdowns are not as often and the spells are getting shorter and shorter. Instead of eating myself happy, I’m going to the gym. Instead of giving up when I don’t lose weight fast, I keep going. This is going to be a long journey but one I’m determined to stay the course to beat this disease. Surrounding myself with positive people and my Faith is imperative for my success. I am #onamission. And I will need your support to complete it.
I will leave you with this. I know I’m not alone. Just as I need your help, chances are you know someone else who needs you too as they battle their own depression. Do me a favor, instead of judging or telling them to just ‘get over it’, ‘cheer up’ and ‘just smile,’ give them a hug and say nothing at all. Lecturing them about how they need to get over it will NOT work. What they need to know is that they are not alone and they are loved because in their dark moments these are the things that will help break down those lies and emotional walls. It’s only with this support they will have the strength to move forward and beat this. You would be amazed at the healing power a hug without judgement can bring to someone who really needs it. Trust me. And if you are the one who is suffering – I feel your pain. And whether it’s a hug in real life, or a virtual one – I’m here when you need one. Together, we can beat this.