Loving The Lady In The Mirror

The more I write about mental health, the more I hear from survivors of the black hole known as depression.  Naturally with this topic so close to home, I love my next guest writer’s story and I hope it reaches the reader who is weary from self-hatred and self-neglect. April is a powerhouse woman with a heart bigger than Texas and a steadfast loyalty for those she loves the most. I am honored to have her share. Be encouraged.

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The evening of my 33rd birthday I sat in my car, heavily intoxicated, with the means to my end. The thought of waking up another day was not an option. The pain I was in exceeded anything I had ever been faced with. I felt worthless; an inconvenience, unwanted, unloved and that I had no purpose and provided no good to anyone I loved and valued…to the world in general.

But I am still here today. My saving grace came in the form of a girl who had no clue the internal turmoil I was in…she was my 12 year old daughter, Moe. Somehow, someway, she sensed things were not right that evening. In the days that followed my attempt to take my life, I was numb….I was officially diagnosed as being severely depressed. I kept thinking ‘How did this happen?’ When I looked at myself in the mirror I couldn’t see anything positive. I was ashamed. I had absolutely no idea how to love myself. I had no idea how to get out of the dark place I lived in. Up until that point I was a strong, independent woman that wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.

The road to recovery wasn’t and hasn’t been easy. There are a lot of ups….but even more downs. I can’t even begin to count the different doctors/therapists that I’ve seen, the facility visits I’ve done and the medication altering to fix me.  At one point I had eight different prescriptions….EIGHT!! Felt like all I did was take pills to somewhat control the monster that was buried inside of me. 18 months later, I am currently down to two meds, with lower dosages….its feels GOOD!! But, there were three extremely tough lessons I learned through this:

1. I realized that mental illness, no matter what kind, is much more common than the stigma society places around it. A year after I attempted to take my life, I decided to just put it out there with a Facebook post about how much things had changed in the last year. I hated the thought of someone I knew going through something similar. I wouldn’t wish this dark place on my worst enemy. To my surprise, the Facebook post was overwhelmingly received and the number of comments was surprising. People who were amazed that I suffered from depression, that I attempted suicide…people who had been in a similar situation or knew someone who was. I failed to realize that in being ashamed, I was letting society dictate how I should feel……when in reality so many people have some association with a mental illness. We should be helping each other.

Realizing this provided a sense of acceptance…that I shouldn’t be ashamed…that I am only aware of what people tell me about their lives; that they too may be battling demons inside like what I had, like what I still do. I try to take an interest in others (which sometimes can be confused as being nosey), and provide them with small things that may just be their saving grace: a smile and eye contact, a kind word, a helping hand. I find the greatest comfort in the little things that don’t cost a thing…the things that let people really know they matter. My goal is that no one has to battle internally and try to smile at the world while feeling alone.

2. I had to do this myself. Not completely by myself, but the strength and determination to get better all relied on ME. That was tough to swallow. I was the one to blame; I was the one controlling the solution and the action steps. I had prided myself early about having such a strong support system, but through the constant roller coaster, I lost people I never wanted to. I had drained them…physically, emotionally, mentally, and on the flip side, I had shut them out when they got too close. They had to do what was best for them. During my darkest time I sought out acceptance amongst others more than I sought to accept myself. I looked to them to want me and love me, when I couldn’t even love myself. It took me a really (REALLY) long time before I could look myself in the mirror and say “you matter, you are loved, you have a purpose”. …and BELIEVE IT!!! (Yes, something right out of an SNL Stuart Smalley clip) Instead of being my worst critic, I had to learn how to be my biggest cheerleader….which is NOT easy. And quite honestly, there are some days it’s still difficult to choke it out. I’ve worked on rebuilding myself and learning the triggers of my downward spiral. It has been small steps, but that is ok, because after all, the small changes in my lifestyle before is what lead me to the dark place initially. My closest comparison for someone who has never felt this way is that it’s kind of like wanting to lose weight…the extra weight didn’t get there overnight, so you cannot expect it to be gone that quickly. It takes hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, tears, and a goal of WHO you want to be and be able to maintain.

3. I had to learn to put myself first at times…and to not compare myself to others. This is not to be confused with selfishness. This is to acknowledge that I function best as a mother, wife, sister, friend, colleague when I put my health and well-being first once in a while. I feel this is the hardest to maintain. Our daily life is SO consuming that it is difficult to make the time for ourselves without feeling guilty. There is always something that can be done around the house or quality time with the kids or other family members or definitely work that needs to be done……BUT, I’ve learned to separate from it once in a while. For those of you that know me, you will realize the house isn’t as clean as it used to be, laundry isn’t always caught up, dishes aren’t always done and sometimes after a long day, the drive-thru window or a frozen pizza is so much easier than a legit cooked meal…..and that’s OK.

Another message that stemmed from this was that I couldn’t compare myself to others. My journey was mine alone, and I am the only one who knows what has happened, how I’ve felt, the relationships I have, etc. I learned the hard way that comparing ourselves to others sets us up for failure.  It has given us a false sense of what a human being actually is. We all are flawed, face challenges, have triumphs, etc. I am ME and I should only strive to be better than I was the day before, not better than somebody else.

So what is my point in all this? It’s that no matter how difficult things are, I guarantee that you will never be alone even if you feel that way. That there are always options and we just have to look a little harder.That there is always, ALWAYS something beautiful around the corner. It is to remind you to constantly strive to find value in yourself, find value in others (and communicate it). Accept that we all are flawed and in need of love, nurturing, guidance, and most importantly forgiveness. It brings me to tears every time I think that I could’ve missed all this.

Earlier this year, I heard the song below on my way to work…..a morning when I was already emotional and struggling to stop the tears from strolling down my cheeks. It reminded me that my storm will not last forever, that I have been given the strength and the resources to weather the storm, that I am worth the fight and I am ME…created beautifully in my own way.

Through The Rain~ Mariah Carey~

When you get caught in the rain with no where to run
When you’re distraught and in pain without anyone
When you keep crying out to be saved
But nobody comes and you feel so far away
That you just can’t find your way home
You can get there alone
It’s okay, what you say is

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again on my own
And I know that I’m strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day and I make it through the rain
And if you keep falling down don’t you dare give in
You will arise safe and sound, so keep pressing on steadfastly
And you’ll find what you need to prevail
What you say is

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again on my own
And I know that I’m strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day and I make it through the rain

And when the rain blows, as shadows grow close don’t be afraid
There’s nothing you can’t face
And should they tell you you’ll never pull through
Don’t hesitate, stand tall and say

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again on my own
And I know that I’m strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day and I make it through the rain

I can make it through the rain
And I live once again
And I live one more day
And I can make it through the rain
(Yes you can)
You will make it through the rain

photo 1

April Tippet is the loving wife of 4 years to Bryan Tippet.  She is the mother of one daughter, Moe, and two cute fur babies, Sully and Booger. She is an independent and successful business woman who still manages to find time for friends and family.  She has worked for the University of Iowa for over 11 years and enjoys planning family trips and events for the one’s she loves. Surprisingly, she manages to be superwoman while struggling with a battle that not many know about. She’s amazing.

 

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