What depression looks like for me

After 4 months on anti-depressants and 2 months seeing a psychologist, the other night I turned to my husband and said, “I have depression.”

To which he said something like, “Um…yes.”

What I meant was that I finally discovered what depression looks like for me. It can look different for everybody.

Because I was diagnosed with PND (post-natal depression, aka post-partum depression), I believed that once things with my children settled down, I would go back to feeling better, to feeling like myself. Just automatically.

Things settled down – my youngest child started walking, being able to do things independently, and with some gentle encouragement (and I do mean gentle, as he’s a sensitive little one) started sleeping better. But feeling better didn’t happen. And when it didn’t happen, I couldn’t put my finger on why. I couldn’t name it. All I could say was, “I just don’t feel like myself”. And I’m still not there yet.

But jump to a couple of days ago. I’m on medication, which is going really well. I’ve been seeing a psychologist and she’s been helping me deal with some of the issues contributing to the depression, which has been fantastic. (If you’re in Logan and need someone, look up Rebecca Cockerton at Capability Psychology – shout out to you if you’re reading this, Rebecca!) I’ve had some good conversations, made a few changes, and am feeling in a much better place. Until…

I was driving home from work, not doing anything, but suddenly felt this onslaught of thoughts telling me that my attempts to do new things in my life (e.g. work on creative projects, change careers, bring in money to help provide for my family) were not going to work out. It wouldn’t matter what I did, I wasn’t going to be able to find a job or bring in money.  And with those thoughts come feelings of self-doubt, desperation, and a desire to just curl up and sit quietly by myself away from other people. I don’t want to put in any more effort. I’m exhausted. And if things won’t work out anyway, why bother?

I tried to use my mindfulness skills and just sit with those thoughts and feelings without trying to push them away, and without trying to interpret them as meaningful either. But in that moment I realised that these were the thoughts that had been frequently visiting me – not constantly, but often enough that they were sapping my motivation.

When I spoke to my psychologist, she offered me two techniques to start managing these thoughts. The first was CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which is about evaluating thoughts to see if they are truthful or helpful. She asked me what I felt it meant about me if I couldn’t achieve the goals I wanted. I said that it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough, I was a failure. Then I realised that I am kind of writing off everything successful I’ve ever done, like it doesn’t count. And in the grand scheme of things, that seems pretty out of balance.

The second technique she suggested was visualisation. She said, “I think you have been visualising negative outcomes. Let’s try visualising positive outcomes.” And she gave me a few examples. So I started tonight, and I will be doing this for awhile. Probably throughout my life. This is all about retraining my brain to move away from thoughts that have a negative affect on my mood, and more naturally move into thoughts that have a positive affect.

The reason these thoughts have made me feel not “like myself” is because in the past, my attitude to doing something new was, “Well other people have done it, obviously it’s learnable, therefore I can learn it.” But when I had a baby that often I couldn’t settle or couldn’t get to sleep despite my very best efforts, it wore me down and I think that has spread to other areas of life. And that’s why I’m not fully recovered (yet!) even though circumstances are waaaaaaaay better.

So here’s to recovery. Daily recovery. And if you have helpful techniques that you use to combat depression or anxiety, I’d love to hear them in the comments below, or email me: mytwocompanions(at)gmail.com

 

Taking my meds part the third

So 2 months later (been a long time, sorry!), and here is an update. I am now on 10mg of escitalopram per day (aka Lexapro/Loxalate/Cipralex/probably several other brands). The transition from 5mg to 10mg was easier than the transition from 0 to 5mg. I didn’t experience as much dizziness or fatigue. My brain didn’t feel as fuzzy. And after taking 10mg for 1 week, I felt perfectly normal.

Has it helped? I think so.

  • I am more able to recognise the little things as “little things”. When my kids are melting down, I am no longer melting down with them the majority of the time. One example: tonight one of my children is unwell, and while holding him as he was crying, crying, crying, I stepped on a corn chip (from dinner…nachos) and it crushed onto the floor, adding to the fairly substantial mess. In the past, I would have felt a wave of rage at making the mess worse/not being able to prevent it in the first place and despair at not being able to console my crying child. But tonight I was able to just brush it aside with my foot and focus on continuing to get my unwell child into bed. (Then cleaned it up later with no stress). Awesome! Such a little thing, but makes such a huge difference.
  • I find myself enjoying my kids a lot more. I like playing with them, laughing with them now. Before I mostly just wanted to get out of there.
  • I still feel some anxiety when my husband goes to work and I’m alone with the kids, but not as much as I used to. Usually the anticipation is worse than the actual day, rather than most days feeling awful.
  • I am laughing more! Years ago, before my anxiety really kicked up a notch, I used to find humour in the absurd and ridiculous situations we all find ourselves in. Somehow I lost that, and I don’t even remember where. But I remember one day, after being on Lexapro for awhile, I suddenly found something so funny I just burst out laughing at the absurdity of it. Usually I would have found it annoying or inconvenient and it would have made me irritable. But I feel like some of my sense of humour has been freed.
  • I don’t feel so angry at God anymore. I used to feel like what was the point of praying for help, when my kids would never sleep through or do what they were told. I just felt like everything was against me and he didn’t care. I can’t say I’m completely not angry about the difficulties we had, but I am now able to at least communicate those feelings to him, and trust that he understands. I think that one’s a work in progress. But at least I survived with my faith intact (although not unchanged – more on that another time maybe).

Things that haven’t been fully resolved:

  • Feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty. Some days (many days) they are pretty strong and I feel unmotivated or like I am going to fail at everything anyway, so why try. Of course I still get up, care for my kids (and enjoy them), go to work, hit the gym etc. I think the self-doubt relates more to my thoughts about the future, like my work situation and how to juggle our schedules as a family. I find it really hard, and stressful.
  • How I feel about changes that have happened in different relationships in my life. I don’t want to say too much about that in detail, but I need to process and deal with some things in order to move forward.

In order to deal with these things, I have gone to my GP and together we did a mental health plan which allows me access to a psychologist at a subsidised rate. I think I get 6 sessions, and my plan is to schedule an appointment soon to see if we can deal with some of the above issues.

My experience with medication so far has been positive. I know not everyone’s is, and sometimes it takes time to find the exact medication or combination of medication and therapy that suits your situation. But if you’re struggling, I encourage you to seek out the help you deserve, and if that includes taking medication under a doctor’s supervision, then I believe it is worth trying.

Thanks for reading!

Taking my meds part 2

Quick update:

3rd dose of 5mg Lexapro (actually the brand I’m taking is called Loxalate – sounds like “lots of luck” – not sure if this is good or not ;-).

So far side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • A little nausea (not as bad as morning sickness though)
  • Feeling fuzzy in the head or spaced out.

All in all, quite normal. Will be nice to feel less wiped out, but that will happen. I’ve nearly got through half of the first week already!

I believe I’m not supposed to take ibuprofen while taking this medicine, but I’m unsure if my youngest child can have it either as he is still breastfeeding and will be receiving trace amounts of the medicine. (He is almost 1 and only feeds about 3 times in 24 hours, so it will be very minimal levels.) Must check with my doctor next week. Sticking to Panadol (paracetamol) for now.

“Have you taken your meds?” (Or, my journey with medication)

Yes I have taken my meds.

Tonight was the first time ever. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety. Signs and symptoms I experienced included:

  • Feeling isolated, weepy and down 
  • Feeling overwhelmed anytime my husband isn’t home to help me
  • Feeling a sense of failure and agitation when I can’t settle my youngest child or when he cries (which is often)
  • Not feeling like myself anymore
  • A couple of anxiety attacks – shakiness, crying, nausea, stabbing pain in stomach
  • Waves of anxiety coming over me at random intervals
  • Thoughts of wanting to run away and not come back, and even very briefly of not wanting to be here at all.

Fortunately, I do have a strong desire still to be here for my husband and children, and myself. And while some of the symptoms have been ongoing, the more severe ones have been recent and less frequent, which means I have intervened early and treatment will likely be easier and quicker than if I had let it continue to go on.

After going to my doctor, she got me to take a blood test to rule out thyroid issues or iron deficiencies. She then prescribed me Lexapro, which is an SSRI and used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. I was unsure whether I truly needed it, but after trying to spend a full day at home with the boys by myself, I found I was not coping. And then the next day my anxiety was being triggered again by other things, and I decided I wanted to be able to stay home with my boys by myself and feel like I could cope and maybe even enjoy it. I also read that having a depressed mother can be linked to poor outcomes for children, and that isn’t something I want.

So I’ve decided to give Lexapro a try. The first two weeks can bring some side effects, so I’ll see how I go. I am also going to be finding a new psychologist to help me cope with my anxiety/depression, and if both these go well, then I should be feeling better and coping better soon.

I will try and post updates here for anyone who is interested, maybe about to try medication themselves for the first time, or just curious about how it all works. 

I want to share this because I want to try and reduce stigma about it, especially amongst the Christian community, where sometimes mental health issues are treated as though they are spiritual issues. Maybe more on that another time. For now, I just want to say that mental health is like physical health and just as I take a Panadol for my headache and gratefully accept God’s provision for my physical pain through medicine, I do the same for my mental health. 

Love to hear your experiences with mental health. Have you ever seen a mental health professional or taken medication? How did you feel about it all? 

Sneaky OCD and faith!

Things have been a bit quiet and I’m keen to start posting some new stuff!  I really wanna hear what you guys are thinking about mental illness/wellness, and I want to make this place somewhere that we can share our stories and share hope. 

I’ve been thinking about OCD lately and I’ve discovered ways it has been really sneaky and taken up space in my life without me really noticing…until I had a good hard look.

3 AREAS I CAUGHT OCD RED-HANDED

  1. Faith
  2. Relationships
  3. Creative pursuits

In this post, I wanna talk about: 

FAITH

Sermons, advice, online articles have all become triggers for me. The cycle goes like this:

A) hear triggering sermon/piece of advice/read article that suggests some improvement to my Christian life. So. Many. Triggers. Even words like “obedience” and “trust” we’re triggers. And like, there is an absolute TRUCKLOAD of advice online. Yesterday I came across an article about should Christians be cremated or not. Seriously. I didn’t realize God had a preference here, but apparently so!

B) Feel anxious that I’m not “doing it right”. Add guilt.

C) Compulsions kick in:

  • Checking whether I am doing “enough” or implementing the suggestion enough in my life – (just a hint: the answer is always no, it’s not enough!)
  • Automatically implement advice without question to relieve the anxiety/guilt, even if the advice is impractical or irrelevant
  • Feel utterly exhausted so avoid sermons/advice/articles 

I didn’t realise this was OCD because it wasn’t causing me to feel super high levels of anxiety (like panic). But clearly, it is. OCD isn’t about the level of anxiety, but the amount the compulsions have taken hold.

And I think they have taken hold, to an extent where I find it difficult to engage emotionally with my faith. It is hard to enjoy prayer, Bible reading or worship when I’m being nagged by these unspecific feelings of anxiety and guilt. It is hard to turn up to church or do a Bible study when I know it is going to trigger anxiety. It is hard to focus on my relationship with God with all this noise going on. And it’s hard to even engage in Christian disciplines like quiet times, memory verses, praying according to a formula because it all becomes empty ritual that simply fuels the anxiety. And all the advice makes me angry because I know it is going to trigger me – not because it is necessarily bad in and of itself. (Although if you are taking it upon yourself to give advice about whether Christians should be cremated, I think there are probably bigger fish to fry and you might wanna focus on that instead. Just my opinion!)

I want to incorporate faith practices into my life that are meaningful and authentic. To do that, I need to start treating this as an OCD problem. 

How is that going to look? 

  • ERP – I need to stop avoiding sermons/articles/advice. I need to maybe intentionally expose myself to some particularly guilt and anxiety inducing stuff and practice sitting with the uncomfortable feelings without engaging in rumination, checking and avoidance. So. Hard. But it is the only way to recover.
  • Mindfulness – use mindfulness based techniques while I am sitting with the uncomfortable feelings to refocus on the present.
  • ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) – know what my values and beliefs are as a Christian and have the courage to stick to them even if other Christians disagree. And even if other Christians think I should be “stricter” in a certain area, still have the courage to risk their disapproval and stick to my own beliefs of having more freedom. Accept that my ideas and opinions and biblical interpretations may be wrong, and live with that uncertainty. This is going to be one of the hardest for me.
  • Just try – pray, read the Bible, learn a memory verse I like. If it becomes a compulsion, stop and try something else. But don’t quit. 

So that is where I’m at. I have to say, there have been days where I feel like I am kind of done with the whole Christianity thing. But I’m not done with Jesus. So that’s why I’m still sticking around. Even though I feel like a poor excuse for a follower of His, I know He isn’t done with me, so I’m not done with Him.

Does anyone else have any faith-related obsessions or compulsions? Or is there an area of life you’ve only just realised that your mental health is affecting? Or is this whole thing brand new to you and you’re like, “What?!” Love to hear from you in the comments, on Twitter (@mytwocompanions) or Facebook (My Two Companions page)! 

Manage Anxiety Now

If you’re feeling anxious and need some techniques to help manage it right now, here are some tips. If you don’t want to watch the video (or don’t have time), the tips are listed below in the post and also attached as a pdf that you can download and print if you want to refer to it later.

MANAGE ANXIETY NOW (pdf for you to download)

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Sweaty (palms/soles of feet)
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Racing thoughts

These don’t feel nice, but are a totally normal response to adrenaline in your body.

How to manage:

Interrupt the physical symptoms.

  • Breathing – breathe in deeply and slowly, to a count of 4 or whatever number feels comfortable.
  • Exercise – burn off the adrenaline by going for a walk or other kind of exercise.
  • Do a simple activity such as making a cup of tea that allows you to focus on something other than what’s in your head and how you’re feeling.

Good news – your anxiety will go down on its own and your physical symptoms will subside eventually, even if you do nothing.

Mental symptoms:

  • A thought that comes to mind that triggers an anxious response
  • Usually a thought about something that could happen in the future or has happened in the past
  • If it causes you distress, it is worth dealing with.

How to manage:

  • Try not to push the thought away – pushing it away makes it stronger.
  • Let the thought sit – acknowledge it.
  • Then turn your attention to something that is happening now.
  • Not ignoring it or distracting yourself, but choosing to attend to the present moment rather than anxious thoughts.
  • Every time your mind returns to the thought, acknowledge it and bring your attention back to what you are doing.

This skill is called mindfulness. It puts you back in control and takes power away from the thought.

What is important is what you think is important, not what your anxiety says is important.

Resources page: https://mytwocompanions.wordpress.com/helpful-resources-2/

Parenting philosophy – maybe a little bit compulsive?

EtI apologize for the lack of posting here lately. I’ve had several things happening in life, but I am still here on my blog to continue writing about OCD, faith, and related topics.

On reflection, I think I may be caught in a cycle similar to the obsessive-compulsive cycle when it comes to parenting ideas/philosophy. I’m not sure I would strictly class this as OCD, but there are certainly similarities.

I realised that I have been trying to parent my children “right”, and to that end have been reading a lot of parenting books. It started with sleep- my first was not a great sleeper; not utterly  terrible, but not amazing – and I just wanted to make sure I did it right, no creating “bad habits” and helping him sleep through as young as possible. (It wasn’t super young! Babies kind of do their own thing.)

Then with my second baby I read a bunch of books about how that is silly and can be dangerous to your baby’s mental health if you let them cry, etc. So then I was following all that advice.

It occurred to me that I probably own more baby sleep books and have read more parenting philosophy ideas and articles than any of my friends who are parents. I have read books they haven’t even heard of. And reading all these ideas and advice can be paralyzing. Sometimes I can find myself in a situation, unsure of what to do next because one book recommends one course of action completely opposite to what another book says – and both claim they are right, and doing something else will be damaging to your child.

So on reflection, I believe this continual search to get it right has become a little too close to a compulsion for my liking. Children are resilient, and my child is not having psychological problems because of how I get him to go to sleep. (No, I don’t just leave him to cry – unless I am getting too upset about him not sleeping, and then I go for a brief time-out to calm myself down.) 

So, I’m not sure what I am going to do yet. Maybe a little bit of ACT can be helpful here – using mindfulness and making choices or responding in ways that align with my values.

What do you guys think? Compulsion? Or just normal parenting? And is there anything you have done that you later thought, “Oh that was a compulsion!”? Love to hear your thoughts.

Please do not feed the ibis.

In Brisbane and the Gold Coast we have a bird called the ibis. I think there is an African version too.

Now, not many people really like this bird. It hangs around when you’re eating. Some people claim they smell. (I can’t vouch for this personally, I have never sniffed one!) But to be honest, this picture is actually a really nice picture. In reality, this bird looks like it got whacked with the ugly stick, big-time. These birds are just everywhere, they are really annoying and they scavenge. We have signs in cafes in Brisbane that say, “Please do not feed the ibis.”

2038331756_70786bdbe5_z

By Su-Lin, https://www.flickr.com/photos/su-lin/2038331756 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The ibis is a pest. Sorry, ibis.

Just like you don’t want to feed the ibis, when you have OCD you don’t want to feed the doubts. Don’t give them a cup of tea. No biscuits. Nada.

One of my favourite authors of all-time, Adrian Plass (who is coming to Australia this year!), in one of his best books (in my opinion) Jesus: Safe, Tender, Extreme, writes this:

When doubt knocks at the door, let him in. Sit him down in a corner, but don’t entertain him, and whatever you do, don’t feed him. Let him stay as long as he likes. Eventually, bored and hungry, he will let himself out, probably when your back is turned and you are busy doing something else. At best, you will forget that he was ever there; at worst, you will breathe a sigh of relief when you realise that you have regained the extra space that he has been taking up.

…As the years go by, I continue to suffer from doubts, but I am agnostic to the point of atheism about their reality.
(2006, p.44-45)

Of course he was talking about religious doubts, doubts about faith – but OCD is known as the doubting disease, and we can truly doubt anything (including our faith) – so this is excellent advice. Doubt is like an ugly ibis, pecking around and being a pain, so it is best to be left to its own devices and not given any special attention.

My plan for OCD in 2016 is to take on some of my bigger anxiety triggers and do some ERP to conquer them. Some of these are related to my faith, so I am excited to see what faith disentangled from OCD looks like. Scrupulosity, I am coming for you! We are on like Donkey Kong!

Happy New Year all! What are some of your New Year’s goals or resolutions?

 

 

Sleep glorious sleep! (Or: when lack of sleep makes anxiety worse)

This is a very timely topic as sleep is a scarce commodity in my house right now. Well, for me anyway. I need at least 6 hours broken sleep a night to feel human. The less broken, the better. But some nights I fall asleep, get woken 1-2 hours later, sit up for 20 – 60 mins, go back to sleep for another 1-2 hrs etc. The intervals get shorter as the night goes on. Or I’ve had my day start at 3:30am. Or I’ve had 3 hours sleep in total. Etcetera. I’m not special – many parents the world over have been here, done this, got the T-shirt. So have people who suffer from insomnia, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression and other conditions. Disrupted sleep is common and takes its toll.

These are some of the effects sleep deprivation has on me:

  • I become irritable or even angry, often over minor things. 
  • Brain fog – can’t think straight, have lapses in concentration, can’t remember words. 
  • Anxiety more easily triggered
  • Quicker to get to higher levels of anxiety
  • Obsessive/intrusive thoughts are more “sticky”
  • Compulsions are more automatic
  • Difficulty in being and staying mindful
  • Get teary more easily
  • Forget to give way at roundabouts (this only happened once thankfully!)

The number of hours you sleep are irrelevant – if you are getting less than you need, you are going to feel it. If sleep deprivation worsens your anxiety, you can improve it.

So, as a sleep enthusiast (who has read a zillion or so baby sleep books and articles) here are my top tips for combatting sleep deprivation.

1. Go to bed earlier.

If you’re going to be up multiple times a night or up for awhile during the night (for whatever reason – anxiety, tending to little ones), maximize your sleep time by going to bed as early as you can. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that even if you’re up many times a night, at least you’ve been in bed for a long time. I’ve been told that sleep before midnight is more restorative. Others say that’s not true. I say, if you feel better with more hours before midnight, then go to bed earlier.

2.  Sleep in.

If you can, sleeping in a little later is a good option to make up for missed sleep during the night. I like this one! Sometimes you can’t get to bed early. Sleeping in is probably not great for your sleep rhythms, but not sleeping is worse for you overall I think. 

3. Take a nap.

If you get no other chance to sleep, a nap can help. Some people say if you nap longer than 20 minutes you’ll wake up groggy, and I’ve found this true for me. But if I’ve only had a few hours sleep at night, a big nap is worth the grogginess to reduce the overall sleep debt. In some cultures they have a sleep in the middle of the day and sleep a little less at night, so it’s actually not that unusual. Just try not to nap too close to bedtime so you can still get to sleep easily.

4. Have a regular bedtime and wake up time. 

Not always possible, but going to bed at the same time each night cues your body for sleep. Waking up at the same time each day sends the message to your body that it’s time to get up. These are your circadian rhythms – your body knows when it’s time for bed and time to wake up. Exposing yourself to bright, natural light during the day and dimmer lighting at night can help regulate your circadian rhythms.

5. Melatonin

Melatonin is the sleepy hormone and helps you drift off. It can be disrupted by light. Blue light from screens (TV, phones, computers) can interfere with it, which is why they say don’t look at electronics before bed. Try reading a book instead.If you get up at night unable to sleep it is best to avoid these too, as they’ll wake you up more. Also, apparently a red or orange nightlight is less disruptive to sleep than a blue or green one. In some cases you can take melatonin. I’ve never taken it, and here in Australia your doctor has to prescribe it.

6. Be boring

If you wake up and cant go back to sleep, it’s best to get up, do something boring or unstimulating in the half-dark, and try to sleep later when you feel sleepy. I have flipped through cookbooks, done a puzzle, prayed, and written in my journal (this is great if I have something on my mind). Stressing out that, “It’s 2am and I’m NOT SLEEPING,” makes it worse. Get up and get sleepy before getting back to bed. You want to associate being in bed with sleeping, not tossing and turning or wakeful activities, so that’s why it’s recommended that you don’t study/work/email or even read in bed. 

7. Get rid of the clock

Looking at the clock in the middle of the night can be stressful. Are you ever going to be happy about what it says? I know I never think, “Oh, I love being up at this hour!” If possible, don’t look at it. Turn it away, cover it up, take it out of the bedroom.

8. Wind down

Have a predictable pre-bed routine to help you transition into sleep time. It can just be a shower, brushing teeth and going to the loo. It might include a warm cup of milk, or a cuddle with a teddy bear or loved one. As long as it’s relaxing and not over stimulating, do whatever works for you. This consistent routine tells your brain that it’s time for sleep.

9. Environment

You want to be comfortably cool. I’ve heard being too hot while sleeping can lead to nightmares in some cases – not sure if urban legend or truth, but being cool (not cold) does help. Block out early morning sun with curtains. Wear earplugs or use a white noise app if your room is noisy. Make your bed, and your room, as comfortable as possible. 

10. Relax

Not sleeping can be stressful. Adopt my motto: “All sleep is a success.” This can apply to your sleep or your children’s sleep! Getting frustrated is normal, but lowering your expectations and accepting things the way they are can help.

  
11. Medication

This is not something I’ve tried, but sometimes you just have to sleep by whatever means possible. In which case, see your doctor for the best option for you. 

So there you go! 10 ways to get more glorious sleep, or at least some ideas to try. 

Have I missed anything? What works for you if you’re having a bad night? How do you cope with sleep deprivation and anxiety?

A Christmas journey from “not very good” to “pretty ok”

Christmas used to be a much more difficult time of year. When I was younger I had a bad episode of OCD begin right before Christmas, so I remember just sitting through it with my stomach in knots, feeling like I wanted to burst into tears – but trying to hide it because it was “supposed” to be a happy day.

Even after that episode of OCD was over, every year around Christmas my stomach would always be in knots. Christmas decorations and songs were reminders of anxiety. I didn’t enjoy Christmas much. Added to that, my family started using Christmas Day as a day to travel for our annual holiday – 15 hours away from all our extended family and friends for a few weeks. So the actual day became very unceremonious, really just a scramble to get on the road as early as possible after a night of packing. While the holiday away was nice, I didn’t love that part so much . (It is a good day to travel, roads are quiet!) 

Then I got married to someone who makes Elf look apathetic about Christmas. I felt a bit like Scrooge as I trailed around the Christmas shops looking for decorations with him while the Christmas music set off all the knots in my stomach again. 

But something happened over the years – by being exposed to Christmas music and decorations and my husband’s enthusiasm, it all kind of became a more positive association in my mind. Maybe a sort of real life exposure happened. And I discovered the joys of Christmas baking…yum! So this year I am pleased to report that I have only very briefly had a few waves of anxiety, and I simply acknowledge it for the temporary visitor it is, take a few deep breaths, and go on with whatever I was doing. 

This is our lounge room by night, all decorated by my husband (must humble brag about him):

This year I am a little sad that my family will be away again, and my husband is working. But I will be celebrating with extended family and in-laws so it will still be a nice day.

For those of us who struggle with the holidays, it’s ok not to love them. There’s so much expectation put on us to be having the best time ever, and go around proclaiming what a wonderful time we’re having. But it’s not realistic – and that’s ok.

I wrote a little free verse for those of us in that place.
When Christmas is not living up to the standard, it’s okay.

If you are stewing in anxiety while the pudding stews away, it’s okay. 

If you are alone, away from loved ones, I understand. 

Or if you are working so others can have a good time, but secretly wish you weren’t,

I hear you. I thank you. 

If the tree fell over, cooking Christmas dinner nearly burned down the house, or Santa just brought you the wrong present – or missed you entirely – you are not alone. 


Beyond the presents, tree, holiday

It began with a first time mum and dad – probably stewing in anxiety over finding a place to stay.

Away from their loved ones, they were gifted with the Saviour.

On a normal night at work, shepherds were treated to the chorus of angels. 

And although they were given no gift, the wise men were among the first to bring the right gift and see the Saviour.


Some say God is far away
Or maybe not even there at all

And maybe this Christmas it feels like it. 

But I pray that this Christmas, as at the first,

That somewhere unexpected,

In the normal, maybe disappointing day to day

That you turn and suddenly glimpse the one they call “Immanuel” – 

God with us.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone.