Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why I Prefer the Term "Mental Illness"

I know there are many people who don't like the term "mental illness" because of the negative stigma associated with it. I'm not writing this to try and convince people that using "mental illness" is the way to go, I'm just writing my thought on why I prefer that term over others.

An illness is a period of sickness affecting the body and mind. If I have a mental illness, that means it can get better! Maybe I won't be cured, but I can improve.

An illness is something you have, not something you are. Calling my anxiety an illness helps me to know that I am NOT defined by my anxiety. It is not part of my personality. It is an illness I have. My experiences help shape my personality and define me, but the mental illness itself has no bearing on my spirit and the person I am trying to become.

An illness is something that goes away when you are resurrected. I don't think that I will suffer from severe anxiety or depression after I am resurrected. Maybe my spirit will still have anxious tendencies, I don't know how that works. But I do know that after resurrection, I won't need to take medicine to function day to day.

An illness is socially acceptable. Sure, when people are sick we want to stay away from them, but it's not like we think in our head, "Wow, Natalie has the flu?? She must have some serious problems. She must not be a very good person."So if anxiety is a mental illness, no one should think less of us.

Finally, when I am having a panic attack, or feeling particularly anxious one day/week/month, I don't feel right. I don't feel normal or good. I feel sick. Just in the way someone with a physical illness feels sick and knows they aren't functioning normally, I feel sick and know that I am not functioning normally.

If I start thinking of anxiety as anything other than a mental illness, I forget that it doesn't define me. I start thinking that it's part of who I am, it's something to be ashamed of.

So yeah, I know that all seems backwards. But calling anxiety a mental illness helps me know that I can still be okay.

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Being Brave

Although my general anxiety has been getting better, I still have pretty intense social anxiety. There are 3 situations where I feel comfortable: school, with our families, and any situation where Spencer is standing beside me initiating conversation. Pretty sad.

During the past week, part of my social anxiety wall has disappeared. I've actually initiated some conversations with people in our ward, without Spencer standing beside me! I even started these conversations without writing a script in my head first. This is so out of the ordinary for me. Definitely not normal (for me)!

Yesterday after I had a conversation with our upstairs neighbor, Spencer said, "Wow, you're getting brave!" and I was soooo proud of myself. I felt brave! I felt normal for once in my life. I felt capable of actually talking to people!

And then I started thinking, how sad. How sad that I'm over-the-moon-proud of myself for having a 10 second conversation. I'm obviously not normal if I am celebrating something like this. Something people do every day without a second thought!

And then I got the heck off that mind train!!

I started a new mind train.

How GREAT! How awesome that I am overcoming my fears! How incredible that I am actually forming relationships with people around me! I'm obviously changing and defeating my inner demons! I am getting brave. And I'm proud of it!

So to whoever is reading this, be brave for you. It doesn't matter what you think "normal" looks like. What matters is that you're happy for your own accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem!

We had another roller blade adventure down the Provo River Trail. Don't let Eli's face fool you...he loved it. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


Today I met with Matthew K Money for the first time since he removed the bandage after my thyroid surgery 18 months ago. I didn't expect to feel so emotional about seeing him again. Like I mentioned in my last post, I was SO excited to tell him how far I've come since he helped me. Telling him all the ways he helped our little family made me so grateful for him. I got in the car after my appointment and just cried and cried I was so happy.

I was pretty sure I had all the symptoms of thyroid problems, but my blood work looked fine so most doctors thought I was fine. Dr. Money was the first one who really listened to me and believed there was a problem.

When I went in for surgery, I was having a major panic attack. I convinced myself I didn't need surgery. I told the nurses who were prepping me for surgery that I NEEDED to talk to Dr. Money before I would let them do anything to get me ready. Even though he was still at the office, Dr. Money came to the hospital early to talk to me. He definitely didn't coddle me, but he told me what I needed to hear :)

Post-surgery, my anxiety and depression is 100x better. It's obviously not gone, but I can function now :) Which wasn't possible for the months leading up to surgery.

We've had a baby! I honestly don't think I would have been able to get pregnant with all my thyroid problems.

I am so grateful for modern medicine! I know that Heavenly Father led Spencer and I to Dr. Money.


Sunday, October 12, 2014


This is another post about anxiety. I've been wanting to write this post all week, but I've also been scared to write it. It scares me to open up about these things because I'm a grown woman. I have a job and other responsibilities. People depend on me for things! I don't want people to read this and think that my anxieties make me less capable of fulfilling all that I am asked to do.

I finally decided to write this post because I'm trying so hard to erase the stigma that anxiety and depression is something to be ashamed about. When I keep quiet, I'm telling myself I should be ashamed. I'm not keeping quiet any more!! I am still capable of fulfilling my responsibilities. I am still a wonderful person!!

There are two previous blog posts I need to reference: my thoughts on my favorite Book of Mormon story, the Jaredites traveling to the promised land, and my thoughts on overcoming anxiety and depression the first time. 

On Monday night, I started feeling like I was having a heart attack. My heart was pounding and I couldn't breathe. I knew it wasn't a heart attack, so I went to bed. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I felt like I was being crushed by anxiety. It felt like I was having a panic attack. All I wanted to do was stay home and cuddle my baby, so I got a sub so I could stay at home. The feeling didn't go away. I was hopeful that it was just something about that day. Tuesdays are my hardest day at school, so I thought maybe for some reason I had a lot of anxiety that particular Tuesday. I thought for sure I would wake up Wednesday and the feeling would be gone. I have come SO far in terms of anxiety, I thought there was NO WAY I was slipping down that slope again.

Wednesday I woke up to the same feelings of a panic attack. It made me so sad. I spent the whole morning crying, regaining my composure, and crying again. I was so sad that it seemed as though I was sliding back into anxiety. That was the hardest time of my life! I did NOT want to go through that again. Not with a sweet baby who relies on me! Not with a husband who has already nursed me through a dark time! Not with a wonderful job that I love! Not with sweet girls who I love to play with every morning! I spent the morning praying to the Lord to steer me away from this trial again.

While Eli took his morning nap, I decided to read the scriptures. After I read a chapter, I felt prompted to read the parts of the October Ensign I hadn't read yet. I flipped through until I found an article I had missed the first time.

Oh. My. Goodness. This particular moment was an incredible, direct answer to my pleadings to the Lord. The article is called Upon the Top of the Waters. It is written by a man who had a season of life where he struggled with anxiety. THAT'S ME! This brother even quoted Ether 6 and made the same connections I have made to the Jaredites! ME AGAIN! Then, at the very end of the article, he says this:

"For now, a few years after this experience, my winds of anxiety are no longer gusting and my waves of depression have ceased to bury me. But if and when the tempest returns, I will call upon the Lord and be thankful, knowing that calm seas don’t carry barges to the promised land—stormy seas do."

That hit me so hard. I have talked and talked about what a wonderful blessing my struggle with anxiety has been. It's blessed my relationship with the Lord, my relationship with my husband, strengthened my testimony, helped me relate to others, etc. But when the winds returned, I forgot about my blessings and focused instead on how hard the trial was. Isn't it funny how that happens?

I am so grateful that the Lord is mindful of me and directed me to something that helped me regain perspective. I don't know what is going to happen with my anxiety. I am going to do what I can to stay grounded, but I now remember that the Lord is blessing me with trials that will only lead me toward the Promised Land.

I go to see Matthew K Money tomorrow. I'm excited to see him and tell him all the things I've accomplished since he took out half of my thyroid. But I'm scared he'll tell me that I need surgery to put tubes in my ears (seriously, at 25, who needs tubes??). I'm even more scared that the reappearance of my anxiety means I'll need the other half of my thyroid removed. But I have an increased resolve to remember the Lord is in charge, He is mindful, and the winds and waves of life will bring us closer to Him if we let them.

Spencer is so good to me. He helps me remember that I need to stay active, get out of  the house and DO things, even when I'm feeling down. ESPECIALLY when I'm feeling down. We went rollerblading yesterday :)