Here’s the thing about mental illness

Here’s the thing about mental illness.

It’s really, really lonely.

Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that for me, some of it can be self-inflicted. I’m a champion shutter-outer. For me, it numbs the pain of feeling any emotion at all, a welcome bliss. But it comes at an ugly cost: Alienation.

A lot of the loneliness I feel is simply because of our societal narrative about mental illness. It’s the giant lie that goes roughly like this: “Doing” will fix you.

Well, how often are you working out?

Are you getting out of the house?

Are you being positive?

Are you taking your medication?

Are you saying your prayers reading your scriptures going to church having faith attending the temple regularly etc. etc. etc???

Yaaaaaaas.

Sure, some of these things are tried and true and will very much help mental illness. But not always.  I’m doing all of those things — some of them to a fault — and I still feel like I’m drowning.

I realized just how deep I had plunged when I was on my back last night during yoga looking up at the dotted ceiling some 20 feet above me, staring into the florescent lights trying to fight off the abyss that was threatening to overwhelm me.

I love yoga and how I can normally leave everything on the mat, recalibrating my thoughts that are all too often bombarded with negativity and self-criticism.

But not always. And certainly not tonight.

Because that’s the thing about mental illness. Sometimes, the illness wins. This dark monster has once again set up basecamps in my brain and heart and it honestly feels like nothing I do can conquer it.

It feels terrible to admit this, and I’m sorry for anyone who takes offense. It’s not intended with a capital NOT. But I’ve often wished that I could have battled cancer or heart disease instead of mental illness. I’m sure this is a morbid, selfish thought, but here’s why.

Cancer is a socially acceptable illness. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, no one tells you to just try being positive. Masses of people ranging from loved ones to Internet strangers run 5Ks and share GoFund me accounts to help support you, building a community around you.

Mental illness is often discussed in whispers in corners or somber tones across family councils that look an awful lot like interventions.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not begging for charity, money or sympathy. Heavens, no. I’m looking for community. I’m looking for an acceptable way to grieve my illness, to struggle and stagger through my symptoms without the heavy weight of stigma bearing down on me.

Oh well, she’s just lazy.

Oh, she’s just looking for attention.

Oh, my gosh, she’s writing about depression again (eye-rolling emoji).

She just needs to apply herself.

She needs to snap out of it.

No. I just have a mental illness.

I hope, oh, how I hope, that these words will help someone else feel like they are not alone.

YOU DO NOT SUFFER ALONE IN THE SHADOWS.

Well, it probably feels like you do.

I hid in my room all day Sunday, trying to quiet my sobs as my family gathered for dinner. I was too ashamed to face them; too ashamed of my debilitating illness that had intensified over the weekend. Because I have no visible scars. Instead, I have a smile on my face and this blog where I try so hard to be positive about negative things.

Here’s the thing about mental illness. It shouldn’t be this way.

I don’t want a fundraiser. I don’t need it.

I don’t want a 5k or GoFund me. I want understanding. Empathy. Someone who will listen without judgement. So many of you readers have listened as you’ve read my words and I’m truly grateful.

I crave that compassion and understanding about this incredibly difficult cross to bear as a wife and as a mother and a human in general.

Please, if you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, love them. Let them know you are thinking of them. Validate their feelings rather then telling them what they should be DOING.

Chances are, they are doing literally everything in their power to fight, to survive, to hang on.

I’ve always been so impressed with bloggers who write about themselves or a family member, chronicling a physical illness, or a recovery from a major accident. They create that incredible community of love and hope as they share recovery and healing updates.

About a year ago, I wanted to do the same for my struggle with prenatal and then postpartum depression. Truthfully, I was far too broken to write then. I feel very broken now. But I believe with my whole heart and soul that God gives us our unique challenges for a purpose. Our job, or at least my job, is to share them in the hopes of lifting another.

So please. Join with me during my continuous fight to improve my mental health. I’m going to write about it, so read it or don’t. I only ask for your empathy and community. I love you, and hope to offer the same to you in whatever monsters you may face.

Because here’s the thing about mental illness.

Our discussions about it have to change. Let’s do it together.

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My life is a mess and other confessions from motherhood

Today has kicked me in the butt.

I only curled half of my hair.

I drank a Red Bull before 7:15 a.m.

I fell asleep on the floor after saying my morning prayers.

My kid ate Play-Doh.

My other one went down for a nap with leaves in her hair.

We have watched an undisclosed number of Daniel Tiger episodes.

Lincoln is teething and it’s a hot, wet, mess.

No, it’s not my best day.

If I’m being totally honest though, it’s just a day. This. Is. Motherhood.

Continue reading “My life is a mess and other confessions from motherhood”

A hike up Silly Mountain

One of my goals for this year was to be more active. Let’s be honest, the bar had been set pretty low, so going for a walk to the park down the street warranted the highest of praise.

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been doing yoga, started training for a 10K in a few months and drinking a lot more water and who even knew, but I feel amazing.

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We hiked Silly Mountain in Apache Junction with my brother and sister-in-law and their babes. We had a blast. Arizona winters (lol) > Idaho winters.

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Technology can be a butthole: a memoir

*FULL DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. Probably. 

Up until recently I taught writing, including blogging, at BYU-Idaho (where you are most definitely not allowed to use the word “butthole.”) Now that I’m trying to delve deeper into the blogosphere and make what’s it called? oh, money doing it, I offer a deep, throaty laugh of resentment.

Amazon affiliates, anyone? Send help/experts.

I digress.

But I have a point with all of this.

Authenticity.

When I taught about blogging, I often had a florescent-lit sea of blank, slightly terrified, faces staring back up at me.

They didn’t know how or often what to blog. Each semester our class discussion would arrive at the same destination: Authenticity. There are a handful of key difference between mundane content and masterful content. For me, one of the most important is authenticity.

The Return of the Whitlocks

And lately, I’ve been brooding about this very subject. Itching to write about my new life in Arizona, inhibited by my own internal stream of criticism and overarching need for perfection.

Continue reading “Technology can be a butthole: a memoir”

What Rexburg taught me

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a gypsy.

I counted yesterday, and conservatively, I’ve moved 26 times in 29 years.

But for the last 10 years, Rexburg has been my home.

I left for a mission in Montana and a couple internships in Florida and Salt Lake, but Idaho has been my home base all through that time, making it the longest I’ve lived somewhere consecutively.

And a week ago, I left it all behind.

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December 16, 2017

As Eric and I stood inside our empty, immaculately scrubbed apartment, I felt the emotion of the last 10 years brewing inside of me. But it all bubbled over when Eric held me in his arms and said something so simple and beautiful.

“I loved coming home to you here.”

Continue reading “What Rexburg taught me”

Can everyone just shut up about breastfeeding?

I’ve about had it.

Can we all just collectively agree that parenting is hard. Any aspect of it. Motherhood, fatherhood, pregnancy, infertility – all of it. It is HARD.

But my goodness, if we don’t make it harder for each other than we need to.

I came across a Facebook post earlier today that talked about how women aren’t “lucky” to be able to breastfeed, they are just more determined and stubborn than you. While this wasn’t the exact wording, this was the clear message.

I walked away feeling like the only difference between moms that breastfeed and moms that don’t is their sheer desire to give their baby what’s best.

I call a big, fat, hearty load of B.S.

Continue reading “Can everyone just shut up about breastfeeding?”

An accidental vacation

I recently wrote about my desires to live more intentionally. Well, sometimes life offers you a chance for spontaneity and you have to take it.

Such was the case for the Whitlock Family {Accidental} Summer Vacation 2017.

Last Wednesday I decided to take our kids to visit my mom. I had gotten off the phone with her early that morning and told Eric, “I need to go to Utah today.” He thought I was crazy agreed and rearranged a few things at work so he could come too while I packed up our car for a couple days in Utah.

On the way there, we heard the news that Eric’s sister’s water had just broken and she was having her sweet baby girl, Eden. We joked about going to Arizona after our time in Utah.

Eric and I looked at each other.

“Why don’t we?” I said.

Continue reading “An accidental vacation”