Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fight for your life, and simplify (This might answer a lot of questions)


I have been receiving personal messages, text messages and Instagram messages from many of you who have been wondering about my absence in the last few weeks. And, while I don’t have the stamina, energy or ability to respond to every tender message of concern, I wanted to share and reach all of you through this post. Please know I love you and have appreciated every thought and every prayer.

These last few weeks I have been faced with a whole new challenge that continues to be a moment by moment mental, emotional, and  physical pain that has been so excruciating I would even compare it to the pain I felt after the loss of my brother Michael in 2009 and the loss of my first husband, Jared, in 2011. But, this time the pain is not from the death of someone else but from the death I feel within me, called Clinical Depression.

In the past, I have spoken about a more common general depression that many have heard of or even experienced yourselves. But, Clinical Depression coupled with anxiety, is a whole different animal.  This debilitating, disease has nearly taken life from me. Thankfully, earthly and heavenly angels have intervened and have been helping to facilitate a step-by-step plan to a very difficult recovery.

I am sure most of you are saying “What the heck?? I would have never guessed!” Well, for the past 2 1/2 years I have been battling with the more common kind of depression. The one where you learn how to wear the, “I’m ok,” mask and push through hard days, enjoying the good ones as they come. I had many days (even weeks at a time) where I could enjoy life where my heart and my mind would connect. Then, for seemingly no reason, the dreaded dark cloud, would come and suck joy, excitement, interests, passion, drive, and positivity right out of me, leaving just enough so I could still carry on and function.

There were many days where my kids felt like burdens rather than gifts, and then there were days where I just couldn’t get enough of them. Sounds pretty common to you moms out there, RIGHT?  But for me, even during the days where I enjoyed them, I still didn’t feel like myself and I knew I was struggling when I would actually find it painful to smile as they shared with me something silly that happened. I felt like a horrible mother even though I knew this wasn’t the real me. I could never get away from the guilt even though my kids were happy and thriving.

For those 2 plus years I had been on an antidepressant prescribed by my general practitioner, and like I said, I could at least enjoy the so-called good days and just grit through the really rough ones.

In January of this year there was a period of 2 months when the general practitioner added another medication, which was a stimulant, and I actually started to feel the best I had felt since I had the twins. It was a magical 2 months. Every single day I thanked Heavenly Father because I was consistently feeling my heart and mind connecting. I was now supermom. I could do anything, handle all the fighting 4 little girls bring to the table, cook dinner, do laundry, put it away, and actually not hate it. I took showers more frequently, looked forward to planning activities with the kids… I mean MAGICAL SUPER AWESOME MOM. Multiple times a day I would beg that these wonderful days would continue.
But, for some reason those carefree days started to disappear and man was I scrambling to get them back. Both medications were increased; I got blessings and spent a great deal of time on my knees pleading with the heavens.

I soon had more bad days than good, but I didn’t want to give up, so I kept working with my general practitioner, and tried everything. Finally he took me off both medications and put me on another one in hopes it would help. Four weeks later, now into August, I crashed and entered into the deepest depths of a new kind of depression, Clinical Depression, which I now have labeled, Hell. I turned into a completely different person and literally broke. My body broke, my mind broke, my heart felt like it was breaking over and over again, and all I could do was scream in agony day after day and night after night, “Help me God. Help me…with small breaks of what felt like this shocking feeling between breakdowns.

My family came to the rescue. One set of grandparents took our older two girls, while another set of grandparents took the younger two.  Friends rescued our dog, Jake and my parents became my 24/7 caretakers while my sweet husband had to work. All I could do was try to remember to keep breathing.

Miracles became apparent as an opportunity opened up to be seen by an incredible psychiatrist at OHSU who does DNA testing to determine which medications are suited for each individual.  At first we were told he did not have an opening till the end of August.  That seemed like an eternity since each day was complete torture.  I know Heavenly Father intervened, because the doctor’s receptionist called back and said he had found a way to fit me in, in only 5 days.  Those were the longest days of my life but there was light at the end of the dark tunnel.  My dad said it perfectly when he said, “Wow I sure do love miracles!”

I won’t go into much more detail but now fast-forwarding to today, I am still working with this psychiatrist who through genetic testing, was able to determine that my body does NOT respond to SSRIs, which my general practitioner had switched me to prior to my massive plummet.  He also was able to determine the medications my body WAS in need of.

Although we have a lot more information now, and a plan to get me better and back to those magical days I once had, the battle still continues. It is rigorous and beyond challenging, but I am hopeful that it will all be ok in due time. Actually just yesterday I laughed really hard for the first time in weeks. For those of you who know me…. That’s a looooonnngggg time.

One night at the onset of one of my scariest painful depressive episodes my mom gave me some medication that the psychiatrist prescribed to help get through those very difficult times. And gosh, believe me when I say that you are just begging and pleading with your life for the meds to start working because every second is an all-encompassing pain. After the longest hour of agony, the medication finally kicked in and my mom and I could finally lie still in my bed and hold each other and cry tears of relief. I of course thanked her for not leaving my side. I expressed how sorry I was for the pain I knew she was feeling. She said she would never leave me over and over again and stayed right there by me. I told her I had to start trying to recognize the good that was coming from this type of suffering. She kind of laughed through her tears and said she didn’t think we’d see that for years, but I told her I really meant it.

After Jared died, I was in dire need to be aware of ANY GOOD that was coming from something so tragic, something that caused so many people so much pain. For me, being aware of something positive through the pain makes it worth it. When there appears to be no good while I am going through a trial (for me) that means I’m not looking hard enough because there is ALWAYS something good to be found.

The Lord performs all types of miracles amidst tragedy. The Lord brings new and life-changing perspective to individuals in the middle of strong storms. The Lord creates growth and strength from broken lives and broken hearts. The Lord causes the heavens to open and allows help from both sides of the veil. The Lord is how we survive and thrive during times where it seems impossible to live. I know that to be true. I have testified to that a million times and I will never stop. I could never deny it.

So naturally, just like with all the suffering (big and small) my family has endured, I wanted to start looking for the good because if we are going to walk through hell, there better be lots of reasons for it, opportunities to change and opportunities for growth.

I am sure as the years go by many good things will become apparent from this current trial but one good thing I have noticed so far is not actually something you would EVER think would come from a trial like this.

One night lying in bed, recovering from another painful episode, I started to randomly think of how nice and relieving it has been to withdraw from social media since I had been so sick. I had been so paralyzed and consumed by this Clinical Depression beast, the last thing I had energy for was social media, and I realized how good that felt!

I first reminisced about Facebook, recognizing what a blessing it had been to me over the years. I had been able to receive so much help and love from so many people through many trying times. I also thought about how I had used social media to share some of the personal things I had learned about life. These experiences had been wonderfully therapeutic and helpful.  SOOOOO, why on earth would I be feeling such relief from my recent inactivity?

I then began identifying specific negative influences that ever so subtly started coming into my life through social media that were not always there. These negative facets slooooowly crept in and have unfortunately worn on me. I won’t list all the things that started to influence me but will just share a few.

I first started to notice that instead of loving myself and feeling confident as a mother, I was starting to compare myself to the Facebook facade of seemingly perfect mothers with perfect lives and actually started wondering if I could ever measure up. I also noticed that I was spending more time caring while casually researching things that had to do with vanity. I knew that people were using all sorts of filters to enhance their skin, eyes, hair, teeth, and weight, but I still got caught up in comparisons.  Worldly things started becoming more and more important and I hated that! Such meaningless and unnecessary stress! I also spent too much time reading about things that didn’t coincide with what I would teach my kids as I got caught up in casually, “scrolling through my feed.” Thoughts like, “Oh gosh their life is so much better than mine,” or “I should be doing this or that,” or even worse, feeling like a hypocrite when someone would tell me my life seemed so perfect! Last but not least, all this preoccupation with social media was taking some of my attention from my children.  I wanted to enjoy my family more and live in the moment and enjoy each moment.

I seriously had some hesitation sharing this with all of you, because I know some of you are not affected by all of these things. But, I decided to share anyway because maybe, JUST MAYBE this might help someone else who is similarly struggling (and might not have even know it).

Bear with me a bit longer while I bring in one more piece to this very LONG post—
Recently, I have used Instagram to build my “Full On Macros” business. For those who do not know, this is an opportunity for online coaching toward a healthy balanced lifestyle using the method of flexible dieting and exercise.

My intention for using Instagram to build my business is to share my vision for “Full On Macros.” I want to focus on what exercise and healthy eating can do for you. I want to motivate and inspire. I want to help you believe in yourselves and to not give up. I want to help encourage you to not be so hard on yourselves. I want to provide healthy and balanced food ideas, etc.

What I want to avoid like the plague is: Contributing to any comparison issues that became discouraging to me on social media. Please know that my desires for my posts are solely for your motivation and growth as you work at becoming healthier and reaching your goals.  Your journey is personal.  My goal is to support you, not add to your stress.

Now let me bring all this together.  Thanks for hanging in there. Yikes..

SO for now, I am going to run with the relief I felt that night in my bed, and I am taking a break from Facebook and simplifying things in my life as much as I can! But, of course, I will be taking with me all the love, support, insight, and kindnesses so many of you have shown me through the years.

I will keep my Business (www.fullonmacros.com) account open on Instagram (tiffsfullonmacros) but will be changing a few things there as well, focusing more on sharing the successes of my ever so freaking amazing clients.

I know some of you have been able to reach me through Facebook when recent widows need support.  I am still very happy to provide that support, so please don’t ever stop reaching out to me. Email me at tiffanybleak@gmail.com

I also will be sharing experiences, and continue writing through my blog (which I have neglected a lot… oops)

I’ll be honest… even the very thought of trying to explain my moment to moment battle with Clinical Depression to an audience who may not understand, has been incredibly scary. Also, admitting to what I have noticed creeping into my life from social media is not very comfortable either, but I have found the harder it is to share something publically, the happier I am once I have done it, because something good ALWAYS comes from doing hard things. My heart also goes out to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has ever walked or is currently walking through what I now call--Hell. There are new things that can be done to help you, like new studies that have saved my life. I pray for you and please know that, “I get it.” Please feel free to reach out to me for support. I know how alone you can feel.

Love you all so very much,

Tiffany Bleak Johansen Cantrell

6 comments:

  1. Keep strong and Heavenly Father will bless you with health and strength at this hard times in your life. You have the greatest parents in the world that have you showed you so much love and support.

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  2. Wow, I'm so sorry about the pain you've had to endure. I'm so impressed that you are able to find the good in your challenges. I had no idea they could even test for what medication your body would respond to- that's amazing. Good luck to you. You're an amazing example to me!

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  3. You would be amazed how many people are not judging you! I lived with that clinics depression for about 3 years. The showering thing is real..sometimes 3 showers a month was a good month. Hurt so badly to walk. Couldn't hardly get outta bed. Barely smile. Hard to listen to my kids even while I was listening to them. I was in a different place completely and noone knew where it was. I didn't even know! Other than it was dark. Scary and I figured noone knew how to help me. I was given a medication to help me sleep that made me wanna die. So I tried to die. So My parents took me to their home for a few days and my kids stayed with my husband.....took away the medication and I was getting better but I literally lost my ability to sleep. It took so many things to knock me out. Not even ambient would help.I was so scared....and then I got pregnant! Miscarried..got really sick..pregnant.. Miscarried again....and then Pregnant again and it stuck! I was the hardest pregnancy ever. But the baby inside me woke me up along with prayer and blessings and I cannot imagine life without this doll of a daughter. I still deal with depression. Always will. But NOT like that 2-3 years of tortured hell. I understand your post and I also understand not feeling you add up to all the images, the posts, pics, faces, skin. Ect. It feeds the bad feelings if you let it! Even though we know its edited!!! Hahaha! Thanks for sharing! You are very tough! And your family is very amazing!

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  4. Thank you for being so open and honest with your experiences. I have had problems with depression and/or anxiety my whole life. It increased in severity with each of my kids being born and became full force two years ago. Medication was helping to manage it until two years ago. You are an amazing soul who continually inspires me to keep chugging along. Thank you.

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  5. Tiffany I love your heart. You are so strong and absolutely NOT alone with any of these feelings. I went through so much of this comparison issues with mothering (because I'm a tv mom, I vaccinate, I don't home school... Etc so I'm clearly a bad mom) or the worldy comparisons of others beauty, homes, clothes... It's so hard but finally seeing it is the first step in stopping it and finding peace and joy in your own life. Btw you're top notch gorgeous and I've had to accept that lol :).
    I'm so sorry for your depression. I just hurt for you but am so happy to read how your parents literally held you. I cried. How beautiful the family you have is, it's something for myself to look up to and work towards.
    I'll absolutely be praying for you and for answers and solutions to get you feeling "normal" again.
    You're such a beautiful soul Tiff and an incredible fighter.

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  6. That pain is real! Keep fighting, you CAN win with the help of Heaven! We love you!

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