Why People Self Harm

The first time I cut myself, I had the same thoughts cycling through my brain.

“You’re a loser. Nobody likes you. You’re worth nothing.”

I don’t know if a certain event set off my anguish or if it was just another depressive episode. Either way, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and retreated to my “Woman Cave.” I dragged the knife across my skin until I drew blood.

I felt instant relief, as weird as that sounds. I was in so much mental and physical pain from depression, and all I wanted was to feel something else. Anything else. This is called self-harming. By definition, self-harming or self-injury is the deliberate act of harming your body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It is not intended to be a suicide attempt.

Usually, people tend to self-harm when they’re experiencing overwhelming emotions and don’t know any other way to cope.

Research shows that self-injury occurs in about 4 percent of adults in the U.S., according to Mental Health America. The most common methods of self-injury are cutting (70 to 90 percent), head banging or hitting (20 to 40 percent) and burning (15 to 35 percent).

Obviously, this isn’t a health way of coping, but I understand all too well the need to escape intense pain and doing anything that might make you feel better, however temporary that is. But evidence shows that over time, those emotions, along with guilt and shame, will continue to be present and may even worsen, according to Psychology Today.

The roots of self-harming behavior are often found in early childhood trauma, including physical, verbal or sexual abuse. It’s also an indication of serious mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or borderline personality disorder. I had zero childhood trauma, but do have major depression and anxiety.

It’s important to note that self-harm occurs most often in teens and young adults (I was in my early 20s when I started self-harming). Data shows that 6 to 14 percent of adolescent boys and 17 to 30 percent of adolescent girls are self-harming.

Just reading that overwhelms me. This is an issue that we can’t just skip over. Every adult needs to be educated on the warning signs, symptoms and treatment. Early intervention is crucial when it comes to mental health.

Failure to respond to this behavior when it firsts starts could lead to a lifetime of mental illness, and I definitely don’t recommend that.

I was lucky taht I only had a few instances of self-injury. Some get addicted to hurting themselves or develop other reckless behavior to help cope. Fortunately, this is something that can be treated and people can make full recoveries from.

Here are some symptoms of self-injury:

  • Scars, often in patterns
  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks or other wounds
  • Excessive rubbing of an area to create a burn
  • Keeping sharp objects on hand
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather
  • Frequent reports of accidental injury
  • Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, impulsivity and unpredictability
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness

Warning signs/risk factors:

  • Unexplained frequent injuries including cuts and burns
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty handling feelings
  • Relationship problems or avoidance of relationships, and
  • Poor functioning at work, school or home

If you are suicidal , please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I had an exciting week this past week.

Our new house is closer to completion and they showed me a picture of my sunroom where I’ll be doing all my writing and it’s stunning. I picked out a colorful bird-print wallpaper and it looks so good.

Just a couple more weeks, then we can move in.

On Friday, I was a speaker at Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Symposium, which was open to the whole community. About 100 people were there, and even though I was very nervous, I think I did an OK job. I spoke about my experience being suicidal and gave a few statistics as well.

I’m hoping to work with Rep. Hunter more on mental health initiatives — I’m really impressed with his dedication to mental health and to the community as a whole. He’s not a politician, he’s a public servant and it’s obvious. Very admirable.

This week, I’m hoping to get more packing done and set a date for the movers.

I hope you all are well.

Keep reading, and stay in the light, friends.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

Nothing too big to report this week. Halloween was fun, but I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures and moving into my new house, which should be before Thanksgiving. Allegedly. I’ll believe it when I see it.

My series on mental health is still running in the local paper, and my third piece runs tomorrow. I’ve gotten some great feedback, and I hope I can do more in the future. Also, and I can’t remember if I’ve already mentioned this, but our local State Representative has asked me to speak at a Suicide Prevention Symposium, so I’ve been preparing my speech for that.

As far as my mood, I’m OK to good (depending on the house, lol). I made real strides last week in making healthier decisions, so now I just have to follow through. I still miss Diet Coke so much, but I’ve gone 8 days without it, and I’m proud of myself for it.

I hope you guys have a great week. Stay in the light.

Love,
Heather

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This week was a challenging one, but overall, pretty good. I’ve been spending most of my days packing up the house, as we’ll move into the new one next month. There’s a ton to do, but I’ve been staying on top of it pretty well. I’m really excited about moving in. It’s been a long two years since we broke ground.

Today has been challenging because I threw all my Diet Coke in the trash, and I’ve started doing a “pouch reset,” which is a diet that will help me get my stomach back to post-op size. It’s very restrictive, and I’ve mostly drank protein shakes today, so I’m a little irritable. I love food. And Diet Coke, but I had to move on and make a concerted effort to take care of myself, really take care of myself. You can read all about my self realizations here.

Today my family went to the yacht club to do pumpkin carving and swimming, and I really enjoyed myself.

Tomorrow I have another article coming out in the paper, so I’m looking forward to that as well. I think it’s going to be a good week. At least, I hope so.

I hope all of you are doing well and staying in the light.

Personal Growth is So Annoying

I’ve found myself saying “personal growth is so annoying” all week — to my husband, therapist, best friend. It’s been a week of intense introspection where I’ve realized I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should. I’ve fallen off the wagon of self care, careening right into binge eating and negative self talk. All these negative thoughts have been ruminating in my head.

I’m beautiful, and my body is beautiful.
I need to appreciate and nurture it

But the thing bothering me the most is my binge eating. Last year I had weight loss surgery — the gastric sleeve — and I really can’t eat a whole lot. But I find myself pushing my limits, eating until I’m uncomfortably full and can hardly breathe. I’ve gained about 15 pounds since the start of COVID-19, and I’m so ashamed. I should be thinner almost a year after my surgery. I shouldn’t be drinking Diet Coke. I shouldn’t be eating junk all day long — so long that sometimes my jaw hurts from chewing all the crap I put in my mouth.

I feel like a failure, but today I hit a breaking point. I’d been eating all day. It felt like my skin didn’t fit anymore and suddenly I was aware of every inch of my skin. I took a bath and tried to wash away my overeating sins and shame.

Then it hit me. I have to stop doing this. There was a reason I got the weight loss surgery, and it shouldn’t be a quick fix, it should be a tool, and I need to start using it as such. I’m not a lost cause. Sure, I’ve gained 15 pounds, but who hasn’t in the midst of the pandemic? Not that it’s an excuse. But I have to start eating more healthily or I truly believe I’ll put myself in an early grave.

For the first time in a long time I feel hope. I told David what I was thinking, and he was very understanding as always. I know sometimes I put him in a hard spot because I ask him to help me be accountable but then get mad when he tries to help.

He told me he believed in me and had a suggestion: I need to quit Diet Coke. This hit me hard. I’ve struggled for a decade trying to quit Diet Coke. When I got the surgery, I did for a bit, but then started taking sips here and there, which turned into a 12-pack every week, then two 12-packs.

I love Diet Coke. I love that when I come downstairs in the morning with the kids, who are usually arguing and not telling me what they want for breakfast, that the first thing I do is grab a Diet Coke. The first few sips are the best — it burns all the way down and is so crisp. I usually down the first one fast, then maybe one or two more before I take the kids. Then a couple throughout the day. It feels like a treat. Why I feel I need a treat that often, I do not know. It almost feels like a security blanket.

But diet soda just isn’t good for you (especially if you’ve had the sleeve), and although I love it, I must say good-bye. I need to bid farewell to disorderly eating. Logically, I know it’s not good for me, but in the moment I think it will be great. And it might taste amazing, but any pleasure I get is temporary.

Any pleasure I get is temporary. What’s not is the shame I feel. The discomfort and pain, too. That seems so permanent.

After my discussion with David, I threw out all the Diet Coke I had in the house, even the ones that I just bought today. It’s silly, but it made me so sad. I threw out the Butterfinger I had hidden in the fridge, the bag of white cheddar popcorn and a box of Fruit Roll-ups. The food I don’t care about. Eating healthy seems so much easier than forgoing my diet soda habit.

But I have to do what I have to do, because isn’t that all a form of self-harm — bingeing on junk food and chugging Diet Coke? I’m only eating my feelings, trying to bury them down deep and hoping for the best. I think it’s safe to say that this is not a healthy or productive way to deal with life. And someone like me, whose brain doesn’t function properly, can’t live that way. Nobody can, actually.

I have to learn to sit with my feelings. I have to retrain my brain on what constitutes as a “treat.” I have to rein in the negative ruminations. I have to get uncomfortable, be more vulnerable and let go of these actions that once served me but now do not.

Personal growth is so annoying.

But necessary.

Stay in the light.

Negative Self Talk

It starts with something seemingly simple, like telling yourself you’re stupid for making a mistake. Or maybe you begin comparing yourself to others because they have a better body, car, job, etc.

These kind of thoughts, called negative self talk, are extremely dangerous when it comes to your self-esteem and self-worth.

I have no problem admitting this is one of my weaknesses. I catch myself saying things like:
“You’re ugly.
You’re fat.
Everyone thinks you’re a loser.
You’re a terrible mom.”

Just to name a few.

I do my very best to correct these insults as soon as I think them, so I won’t feel worse about myself, but it’s very difficult some days.

That’s the problem with negative self talk — once it enters your brain, it’s very hard to get them out. And once they’re there, they can burrow in deep, making you not just dissatisfied with yourself but dissatisfied with your life in general. It can take a toll on your confidence, increase shame and limit personal growth, according to Psychology Today.

Your thoughts — negative or positive — turn into actions and that’s why you have to be diligent in stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and fostering healthy, happy thoughts, especially if you have depression.

I know that if I let unhealthy thoughts play out, I’ll enter into a depressive episode and practice unhealthy behaviors.

The best way (for me) to think about it is that I have to do some things on a daily basis to maintain my mood and keep depression at bay. For example, exercising. Interrupting my inner critic is no different — just an exercise my mind must do to be healthy, too.

And for me, it’s not enough that I stop the thoughts in their tracks. I find it more helpful to correct my unruly thinking by saying something positive about myself. Like, “I’m a good writer. My kids love me. I’m a kind, generous person,” etc.

It also helps to name your inner critic — this helps separate the negative voice from your own. And at first, I thought I needed to get rid of my inner critic but my therapist has taught me that the inner critic is a part of me and that I need to love her. I initially named my inner critic Ursula, because I thought of a fat, ugly sea witch, but I know now that inner voice needs nurturing, protecting and loving. It may sound weird and I’m not proposing you embrace the mean things your critic tells you but that voice is there for a reason. Maybe it started off trying to keep you safe before it turned negative, I don’t know. But I renamed my inner critic Ann, my grandmother’s name.

I believe I must come to terms with Ann in order to love myself fully. I’m not an expert, but I do challenge you to do the same.

Another thing that helps me with negative self talk is to phrase things to myself the way I speak to my kids (a best friend works, too) when they need comforting. I would never tell them they’re stupid or say something else ugly — never — so why is it OK for me to talk to myself that way?

If you catch yourself thinking mean and hateful things (and can’t change the negative to positive), I highly recommend trying cognitive behavioral therapy. I love therapy and it has helped me grow so much.

For more ways to stop negative thinking, read this Psychology Today article.

Stay in the light.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week was a good week, even though it started off with an ECT. For some reason, that treatment was rougher than usual. I had a lot of confusion and memory loss but maybe that’s a good sign? I don’t know. I’m going to start tracking how long the seizures are and compare it to my subsequent behavior to see if there’s a pattern.

This past week, I was told that the mental health series I wrote for the local paper would be published on Monday (tomorrow) and I’ve very excited about that. I have six pieces, so they’ll run every Monday for six weeks.

I also was asked to be the main speaker at a suicide prevention symposium, which is being held by my state representative. I’m nervous but very excited about that.

Yesterday, David and I went to the new house we’re building, and they are almost done — thank God! It’s been two years, so I’m very anxious to move in. I started ordering the kids bedroom furniture, and that just got me more excited. I really can’t wait. But now, I have to start to pack, lol.

That’s pretty much it. I hope you guys have a great week. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light, friends.

I’m Not for Everyone

In the not-so-distant past I’ve had trouble with is that I want everybody to love me, and because of this, I don’t think I’ve been my most authentic self around people. I was a people pleaser. I sought the approval of people who really shouldn’t shape my behavior (family, friends, acquaintances I met at the kids’ school). Usually people pleasers have low self-esteem and self-worth. It’s just not realistic for everyone to like me.

The only person I should care about liking me is me. And maybe my husband.

I’m tired of thinking, “Oh, is this person mad at me? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to apologize?”

I would actually go through my texts or social media posts to see if I posted something offensive or controversial. That’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I don’t want the responsibility for how others feel anymore. Rejection, if that’s what it is, is OK.

I’m a good person — a nice person. I’m kind, generous and I love hard. If someone doesn’t like me, fine. I think I’m great. It just took me a really long time to get here.

I look back and think of some of my therapy appointments. It was really hard admitting that I’m a good person, and it was unbelievably hard saying something nice about myself or even discussing the good things happening in my life.

I’m tired of that, though. I’m tired of overanalyzing my behaviors and social media posts. I’m also tired of freaking out when I think someone is mad. Just because they’re mad doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. It makes me avoid conflict, and that’s not healthy either.

I’m not for everybody. And that’s OK. I just want to be me — an advocate for mental health, lover of the F word, a “bleeding heart” liberal, an anxious (and sometimes very depressed) person, a kind hearted person who sings no matter where she goes, someone who will admit when she’s wrong, someone I cherish for all these reasons and more.

It’s a long road to love yourself, and I’m no means close to the finish line on that, but I feel it starts with letting go of the idea that you have to please everybody.

I’m an amazing person for so many reasons, but one think I’m not that I need to remind myself of is — I’m not for everyone. I’m for me.

My tips on how to stop people pleasing:

  1. Be OK with saying “No”
  2. Accept who you are, with no exceptions
  3. Know that it’s OK if not everybody likes you
  4. Practice self-care
  5. Don’t place more importance others’ opinions than yours
  6. Set priorities and only do things that will advance those priorities
  7. Ditch toxic personalities

Download my Self-Care Checklist below:

Self Destruct Mode: OFF

I’ve been feeling pretty great lately, which is a bit unusual, but hey, I’ll certainly take it. When I feel this good I tend to treat myself better, I’m more productive and generally in a good mood.

But I’ve noticed, even with these good moods, there’s still a part, albeit a small part, of me that looks for ways to be unhealthy. For example, I’ll get the urge to overeat, even when I’m not hungry. I’ll think, “What pills can I take to feel good?” even though I have no such pills. Images of cutting myself will appear, even though I surely don’t want to do that.

I’m aware that it’s happening and I know it’s 100-percent my lying ass brain spreading more lies. It’s just a malfunction. It’s not really real, but emotions are energy in motion, and I can’t let these awful thoughts fester in my head.

If I do, unhealthy behaviors take control and with them come intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. My control over these thoughts and behaviors loosens, and just like that, I’m in a dark, ugly place that I can’t find my way out of. It’s like being in a deep hole and my depression is just too heavy, weighing me down and preventing me from climbing out.

It’s a slippery slope, a dangerous one for me, given that I can become suicidal very quickly.

I have to take inventory of my emotions constantly to prevent this. I have to be fully aware of how I feel and avoid switching to autopilot where I might miss something. I have to be so diligent so I can avoid that hole. And honestly, it’s exhausting and feels like sometimes it’s too much or not worth doing. Before I’d try to figure out why I was having these thoughts and ask what it meant, but like I said, it’s just a malfunction. I need to stop wasting time wondering why and just dismiss the thoughts. They’re not worth thinking.

I must release the energy that fuels these damaging thoughts and refocus if in a productive way, channeling it into exercise and writing, etc.

A self care check list is helpful to have so I can stay on top of the things I need to do to prevent self destruction. Just thinking about all the work I have to do to stay healthy is daunting and tiring. But I have to do it if I want to be happy. This past week has made me realize how much I’ve missed being happy — singing at the top of my lungs in the car and shower, truly enjoying spending time with my kids, reading for pleasure, writing my ass off and exercising. Medicine, ECT and therapy just aren’t enough to maintain my good mood and healthy behaviors. I have to put in the work at it, just like anything else. Sometimes it bothers me that other people don’t have to work as hard at life.

But I don’t do happy-go-lucky — I physically can’t. Happiness, for me, is hard work. It’s sticking to a strict schedule, taking an assortment of pills daily, going to therapy, keeping a close eye on my emotions and lots of prayerThere’s nothing lucky about it. 

I do have to work hard, but the payout is so, so good and that’s what I need to remember. What is the point in having an amazing life if you can’t enjoy it? Why do I spend so much time self-sabotaging? Again, with the “why?”

I’m going to work at my life like it’s my damn job and like it pays, because it is and it does.

It pays so much.

This is the Self Care Checklist that I created. It’s super simple; feel free to download:

“Can I go home now?” My life with anxiety, negative thinking, and chronic pain.

Guest Blog, by Lauren Logan:

I was an awkward kid. Emotional, extremely shy, overweight, curly hair that was frizzy and out of control, and freckles. I was the kid everyone made fun of and very few wanted to be friends. I don’t even need one hand to count the number of people that I would consider true friends from ages five to 14. It didn’t help that I went to a small private school with about 60 other kids in my grade, so once you’re labeled as the social outcast it kind of sticks with you for a while. The summer between 6th and 7th grade, I lost a bunch of weight and I remember it was a lot easier making friends after that. I associated “not being fat” with being accepted and being good enough.

This association started as a small passing thought, then made a hard u-turn and hit me head on. It attached itself to me at the age of 12 and would stay with me until the age of 36. (By the way, I’m 36.) From that point on, I found myself under constant fear of rejection and wanted nothing more than to just be accepted. Friendships, relationships, work achievements, social circles – I made myself into what I thought others wanted me to be and along the way, forgot to take the time to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Outside of school, my social life wasn’t any better. Even family gatherings were incredibly stressful for me. A few people at a time was okay, but when I say I have a big family, I’m talking about eight aunts and uncles and over 20 first cousins. By the time I was born, my oldest cousins had their own kids. I’m not going to do all the math, but I remember Christmas Eve was always a bunch of kids sitting on the floor waiting to open presents and if you had to get up, it was like walking through a maze and trying not to step on someone. It’s a great memory, but the other half of that memory is that although I loved my family, I did not like the feeling of being so overwhelmed by people. At any function with more than a few people, I would take safety by hiding behind my mom or my grandmother. If that wasn’t an option, I would follow around whoever I was most comfortable with (usually my cousin, who you know as the creator of Unruly Neurons). At my own birthday parties, I would beg my parents to please skip the “Happy Birthday” song because people staring at me and singing was unbearable.

My mom did everything she could think of to help me. Although we never actually talked about it, I imagine she realized that me hiding behind her for the rest of my life wasn’t going to work out very well. So, I was in Girl Scouts, basketball, drill team, even tried volleyball for a year but I wasn’t any good at it. (I actually wasn’t that great at sports in general, but I really loved basketball – thank God for B teams who will let anyone play.) And finally – I found theatre, which quickly became my first love. It didn’t help with social anxiety at all, but it was the one thing that I could truly escape to and the only thing I would stick with throughout junior high, high school, and some of college. Probably because it was fun to be someone else for a while.  

Throughout all that, I had lost and gained weight so many times throughout my life, I lost count. What I didn’t lose is the thought that in order to be worthy of love, I needed to keep the weight off. This is not only how I believed others saw me, but it is also 100 percent how I see myself, and it has been that way for a very long time. But the weight issue would just be a foundation for me to continue to pile on horrible thoughts about myself. I won’t list them all here but trust me when I say it’s nothing good. And the sad thing is that it gets easier and easier to add on those other negative thoughts the older I get. I’ve had counseling, I’ve taken medication, I’ve journaled, I’ve poured my heart out to a few people, I’ve latched onto my faith which tells me that all those negative things I think about myself are lies. But when the foundation of what you believe about yourself starts with what you look like, it is really, really hard to believe anything else. It all starts with something like, “If I were prettier… If I were skinner… If I were smarter… I can’t do anything right… I’m a failure… How could anyone love me… I hate my body… I’m disgusting…” Then it transitions from thinking it to saying it, and eventually believing that my entire identity and worthiness is completely dependent on what I see in the mirror. When I lose weight, I am a better person. When I gain it, I am nothing.

Enter permanent nerve damage and chronic pain. Do you know how hard it is to keep an active lifestyle when you’re in pain 98 percent of the time? Yes, I can lose weight by focusing on nutrition, but to actually get the body I’ve always wanted, working out is a major factor. When I met my husband, who is truly the best person I’ve ever known, I was introduced to weight and resistance training and I fell in love with it. It was fun, it made me feel good, I started thinking more positively, I had more energy, I was able to focus better, and I was way more motivated to keep a good diet. The thing about nerve pain is that it really doesn’t care about all that. It doesn’t care that I would have months of working out consistently, only to have to stop for weeks at a time because I could barely stand up straight. It doesn’t take into consideration that if I don’t stay active, I have nothing that makes me feel good about myself and all those negative thoughts I was working to push away are actually just hiding behind a corner, waiting to jump out at me. It certainly doesn’t ask me about how starting over time and time again is so mentally draining, and most days I just want to give up on ever being happy with myself because I’ll always be stuck in this cycle, so what’s the point? Also, I’ve been dealing with this nerve pain for almost twenty years now. I’ve done physical therapy, shots, medication, had surgery, and I’m told it’s something I will have for the rest of my life.

On top of that, when it comes to socializing, not only to I have to deal with what is now pretty serious social anxiety, but even routine things (going to church, going to work, etc.) become difficult because there’s physical pain that never goes away. But people don’t always understand what they can’t see, so when I opt out of social gatherings because I need a mental break or because I have pain in most of my body and it hurts to move – it’s not because I’m flaky. It’s not because I don’t want to see friends and family. It’s not because I’d rather stay at home and read all day or binge watch The Big Bang Theory or Stranger Things (I mean, that is what I’d rather be doing over most thing, but that’s not the point). It’s because I’m drained – mentally, physically, or most of the time it’s both – and I just can’t force myself to do it. Yes, I miss out on holidays and I feel horrible for disappointing people. I’ve missed weddings and birthdays and those are things I’ll never be able to get back. I’ve let people down because I didn’t show up. I’ve tried my best and at times, it wasn’t even close to good enough. I’m trying to do lot better.

I wish I could leave you with a list of things that have worked for me to overcome social anxiety, chronic pain, and negative thinking. To be honest, I wish I had that list for myself. I have found some things that help from day to day, but that’s the key – these are things I struggle with daily. So, I won’t be able to share any quick fixes that have magically solved everything, but I will share what gets me through.

  1. My people.
    It’s important to have people in your corner that love you and accept you. People that are okay with me following them around the room a few times until I’m comfortable enough to find my own space. People who will be my human shields when needed because I. Do. Not. Like. Strangers. Hugging. Me. Or shaking hands. Ew. At the same time, they know how to get me out of the house because it’s good for me, and they do it without a guilt trip. My husband and my best friend are pros at this. It doesn’t have to be a huge circle of people. I’ve found that it’s okay to not need an entire hand to count the people I consider true friends. Quality over quantity. Always.
  2. Things that truly make me happy.
    I love books. I always have and I’m certain I inherited this from my Mema. I love reading them, I love looking at them, and the smell of old books is the best thing in the world. I also love writing them. Even if no one else ever sees them, it’s okay. Reading and writing is as close to my true natural state as I can get, and it’s when I feel the most like myself. It’s not just an escape for me, it’s something that keep me going.
  3. Doing the hard things.
    It’s not easy and it’s not comfortable, but the only way I know I can overcome things is to actually do them. Most of the time, I get something out of it and I feel proud of myself afterwards. I still know when I really need to say “no” to something, but I try not to overthink it or agonize over things for days before they actually happen. Last February, I was asked to be on the committee for a two day women’s conference at my church. I knew not a single other person on the committee going into it and I only casually knew a few people that would be attending the conference. Was I scared? Heck, yes. Did I almost back out? Absolutely. But I went through with it because I started thinking that maybe there was a reason why I needed to be there, and if nothing else, that reason would be showing me that I could do these things and it would turn out okay. (It turned out more than okay.) Another really hard thing to do is to confront the actual issues behind negative thinking. There are lots of things and memories that I’ve pushed aside and avoided dealing with because it’s too painful. I would rather continue thinking negative things about myself than deal with why I think those things in the first place. But I do have to deal with them. There is no substitution for digging up the dead roots in my life and getting them out of there so that something better can grow.   
  4. Consistency and preparation.
    This one is hard for me because not knowing what my nerve damage is going to do one day to the next can really throw things off. I also can’t predict when something is going to trigger my anxiety and thought spirals and I end up spending the day in bed avoiding everything. But you make the best of the good days and do what you can with what you have. I try to stay as prepared as possible and take advantage of the time that I’m feeling good. This is especially true for days when my nerve pain isn’t as bad – I make it a priority to work out and meal prep, and focus on what I can do, and what I can control.
  5. My faith.
    This is different and personal for everyone. I was raised Catholic, and when I was in my early 20s, I stopped practicing Catholicism and became a non-denominational Christian. I don’t have a go-to scripture that makes everything better the instant I say it. I do have a couple of favorite worship songs that help when I listen to them, but overall, what I really need is Jesus and the love, grace, and forgiveness that comes with Him. I know not everyone reading this will be of the same faith, and that’s okay. I’m not here to write a faith blog. I included this because it is something that has truly saved my life and has brought me through some really dark times. It is the one thing I know that takes my broken pieces and puts them back together, and I come out better than I was before. My hope is that everyone has something like this on their list.

Finally, know that you are not alone. Everyone has struggles that are unique to them and our stories may not read the same, but the more I open up to people about what I’m dealing with, the more I hear “I thought I was the only one who felt this way.” We were not meant to do life alone, and we are not meant to live feeling defeated. Do the best you can today with what you have. Kindness, compassionate, and grace can go a long way when we extend it to others, but don’t forget about extending it to yourself, too. 

Lauren Logan lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband Tyrone. She’s also a writer, and my beloved cousin.