So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

For years, I have seen a quote floating around social media. Shared over and over and over again. A post I have a really difficult time “liking” because it’s one with which I don’t always agree. Not because I don’t think it’s beautiful and inspiring. No, not one bit. Simply because I don’t always find it to be true:

“Happiness is a choice. You can either choose to be happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”

Gulp.

You can “choose”.

That’s where I have a difference of opinion. Because, I know for me and countless others, happiness is not always a matter of choice.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I have been at the utter mercy of a relentless thief. Literally stealing the joy, the happiness, from so very many of life’s most-treasured moments.

A crook that has always been a part of my life. But one that totally and completely grabbed hold of my life while pregnant with our oldest that has kept its grasp for a very long time.

Anxiety.

A seven-letter word that took control of my existence and wouldn’t let go. That forced me to feel as though I was living my reality inside of a glass box. Watching the world around me thrive and grow and flourish while I was entrapped, held captive by a force over which many times, I have no power. And I hate it. Despise it. That doesn’t even seem to cover it.

A bully. Pushing me around, forcing my mind to spend hours at a time set on a closed-circuit of “worst-case” scenarios, without a stop sign in sight. Like going scuba diving without an oxygen tank. Or skydiving without a parachute. Grabbing for any kind of life-preserver around me at the moment. Literally, at times, struggling to catch my breath.

Thankfully, through each and every one of my experiences, as hard as they may have been, and still are, I have learned my “triggers” and how to map out successful strategies for combatting these worries. Still, the path to feeling as though I am finally able to exist without feeling as though I am encompassed in cage bars has not come without a bumpy trail. My mind is always left reeling, constantly thinking about just how much I have missed out on. Because of this stupid force, this invisible predator that took my joy and let fear seep into every moment meant to be amazing. That robbed me of my confidence and stole so much contentment.

If you look at me from the outside, you would most likely never label me as having a “mental illness”. And neither do I.

When I look in the mirror, I see someone who has achieved. Who is well-educated and graduated at the top of both my high school and college classes. Someone who excelled in sports, setting records and breaking them. Someone who loves to give and be around other people. An elementary teacher for over a dozen years. A wife. A mother to four, who is “highly-functional” on a daily basis.

But I also see someone who is continuously filled with worry. A type of worry that deprives me of more moments of happiness than you could probably ever imagine.

My mental illness does not define me. It is simply a part of me. Some days, a much larger part than others.

While my anxiety has taken so very much from my life, it has also given me something for which I am so grateful: a story to share. One full of encouragement. The strength to step out of the shadows, away from my comfort zone and to share my experiences with others in hopes of encouraging them to know they are not alone. To know anxiety isn’t something that has to overshadow the entirety of someone’s being, that it is only one piece. And most importantly, to know this is never something about which someone should feel ashamed. Ever.

The one thing I hope to share more than anything else? The one small piece of the puzzle I would wish for everyone to understand? Having anxiety and struggling with these smothering feelings is not a choice. 

There are days when it feels miserable to be happy. Standing in total anticipation of the next “bad” thing to happen. The “amount of work” that simply goes into keeping it all at bay, and to very well make it through a given day, can be utterly exhausting.

You may never have experienced anxiety. You may not think you know anyone around you who has. But chances are, you do. You may never know. Because this person may not speak up or reach out. Chances are, he/she is struggling in complete silence.

Respectfully learning something about this illness can move mountains in the eyes of others. You see, it only takes a moment to know those with anxiety can’t predict when it might hit.

In the mind of someone with anxiety, the seemingly irrational thoughts and worries are so very real.

There is often not an explanation for the anxious thoughts.

Those with anxiety are typically always in “limbo” even when all is well . . . just waiting for the next worry to reel through their mind.

Experiencing anxiety tends to cause hours of overanalyzing.

Anxiety “looks” different for each individual. And it can “look” different from day-to-day for just one person.

You may or may not be part of someone’s “comfort zone” at any given moment.

You may not fully understand, but you can still be part of someone’s support system.

And if you think for even one second that those with anxiety and depression would not “choose” happiness and tranquility in those moments of panic, suffocation, and sometimes pure fear . . . “mistaken” would be an understatement. Truly, those things are all we want. Even for one moment.

This post was originally published here

You may also like:

My Anxiety Makes Me Feel Like I Fail Over and Over Again

Taking Medication For Depression and Anxiety is Not the Easy Way Out

Liz Spenner

Liz is a former elementary teacher and now a stay-at-home mama to six little ones. She writes as an inspiration and encouragement to other women, and most especially mothers on her blog, www.gracefullywoven.net (where you can subscribe and receive her free Five-Day Mini-Motherhood Devotional!). Liz loves spending with her family, outside as often as possible, as well as sneaking a few moments to herself with a run, dark chocolate and writing, with her faith as her greatest motivation.

I Know My Friends Aren’t Bothered by My Messy House, but I Am

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Sad woman by laundry pile

My house screams at me. It screams to clear off the kitchen counters, to put away the clean clothes, to organize the shoe collection in our entry, to gather up the scattered toys, to sweep the crumbs up, to place the throw pillows back on the couch, to clean off the table—you get the idea. Everything in my sight speaks volumes to the state it does not want to be in, for the chaos it is imposing.  Keeping home is a labor of love and never of balance for me. Everything that is cleaned, made, or organized will always get...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

You Are So Much More than the Doubts in Your Head

In: Living, Motherhood
Little girl looking out window, color photo

Keep pushing. Push through every doubt the enemy instills in your mind.  Push through the depression. Push through the worrisome moments. Push through that anxiety that won’t let you win.  You’ve got to keep going. Keep moving forward.  You are a great mother. You are a great wife. You are a great employee and an even better friend.  RELATED: Struggling With Mental Health Makes You a Bad Mom—And Other Lies I’ve Believed Don’t get stuck in the same spot that depression has led you and those thoughts that say you aren’t good enough or worthy enough.  You are.  God says...

Keep Reading

I Will Live For You

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and child silhouette

“I would die for my child, ”a well-known, often said sacrificial statement. I didn’t really know how my fierce love for my child would manifest until the first time she was extremely upset, and I didn’t know why.  Readers, I would have cut off a finger to console my baby.  I would die to protect her.  Both are strong, love-filled sentiments. And both, God willing, are unnecessary.  But there’s a daunting task that is absolutely necessary. At times it needs to be a conscious decision. Sometimes it’ll require taking care of yourself so you can better care for your child....

Keep Reading

Don’t Write Off How Far You’ve Come

In: Living
Woman smiling

Tonight when the demons in my head want to take over, I’m reminding myself that I am amazing, and I have accomplished things I dreamt about for years. I graduated from college. I have a B.A. in psychology. Other people had that. Not me. But now I do. I’m getting my Master’s degree in social work. I am a published writer. Yes, my brain and other people are tearing me down and screaming at me that I can’t do anything right. But the evidence? The evidence is that I have survived 16 years of special needs parenting. And that is...

Keep Reading

Dear Girl, Give Jesus Your Mess

In: Faith, Living
Woman holding Bible, color photo

Oh, dear girl, Give Jesus the mess. Your mess. The mess you think is too much or too big or too unbearable. The depths of the mess. The very worst of the mess. Lay it at His feet. He knew you long before the mess existed. Nobody knows your mess like Jesus. I assure you—this will not catch Him by surprise. Even when you do not understand, even when it is most difficult, even when you have your head buried in your hands. Praise Him, for God wastes nothing.  Even when it feels like opposition is coming at you from...

Keep Reading

Friends Can Be a Sanctuary

In: Friendship, Grief
Group of friends hugging

A sanctuary is defined as anywhere people go for peaceful tranquility or introspection. My friends became my sanctuary when my husband, Frank, died. They became my refuge and my safe place. Friendship is one of the most wonderful gifts in this world. It is beautiful, comforting, ever-changing, and, for me, a fixed point.  My friends seemed to know exactly what I needed and when I needed it. Their love and constant support got me through the worst of times and gave me the courage and confidence I needed to move forward.  I could never give an adequate thank you to...

Keep Reading

Childhood Trauma Made Me Crave the Simple Life I’m Living Now

In: Living, Motherhood
Family walking down road

My own childhood was not a happy one.  My earliest memory was of blowing out a birthday candle (I was maybe three) and of my wish being that my parents would get a divorce, that my dad would disappear forever. The happiest days of my childhood were 72 hours spent in a shelter for battered women outside of DC with my mom and two younger brothers because for the first time in my 9-year-old life, I felt free from the many constraints of home life—short-lived as I knew this freedom would be, knowing he would always find a way back...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Dress “Like a Mom” and I’m Not Sorry

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother in tank top and shorts with three children, color photo

I’ve always had a rather unique style.  I’m not afraid to dress loudly and stand out.  I’ll be the only girl wearing heels in a stadium full of flats.  I’ll wear sequins and glitter in my 30s.  I’ll wear vintage, current trends, and things that have possibly never been fashionable. If I feel confident and comfortable in what I’m wearing, that’s really all I care about.  I’ve been complimented on my outfit choices plenty of times.  RELATED: I’ll Always Be Too Much For Some People I’ve also been negatively judged—many times I know about and probably more times when I’m blissfully...

Keep Reading

What If the Woman Who Seems to Have It All Actually Admires You?

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood

I’ve known her for a long time, and as long as I’ve known her, she’s always been beautiful. Beautiful on the inside and even more beautiful on the outside. Her makeup is perfectly done, her hair with not a strand out of place. And her clothes? Chic. She is well put together, always in vogue. While I have recycled the same clothes for the past five years, she is on point with the latest trends. She can even rock a pair of sweatpants. Her pictures on Facebook and Instagram posts confirm this as well. (She also has a successful career,...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections