My manual for my husband

I said something like “I was so naïve. Like really naïve to believe so fully that you’d follow through on all of the promises you made.” Hubs responded: “I was naïve to think I could make and follow through with all of them.”

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My anxiety and insomnia

During the past few years I experienced insomnia, a symptom of PTSD. Anxiety, stress, and depression are said to be common causes of insomnia. This was not like me at all. I would lay down after an 18-20 hour day and my mind would race. I would worry about the future, what I couldn’t control, and it usually ended with me turning on mediation music. I took a lot of naps (my kids can attest to this)—possibly too many.

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My Bargaining With Grief

I was in shock when my husband talked to me about his addiction. I sat. In shock. He was crying, and I just sat, in shock. I know I didn’t hug him, and he probably wanted a hug. I sat. In shock. Within a week he stopped working.

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My Exercise Therapy

Exercise therapy is real. It’s oh so good for the soul and brain.

During the fall of 2015 Danny was so anxious that I didn’t feel like I could leave the house to workout. Many nights I’d feed my 4-month-old around midnight, come to bed, help Danny fall asleep, wake up at 5 to feed baby, then come to bed and help Danny calm down and instead of getting a little shut-eye before the other kids would wake up. 

Come January Danny was doing a little better. I chose to work out a few days/week to stay sane, even if it was getting up at 4:40 in the morning!

Exercising released the endorphins needed in order to feel more neutral about my circumstance.

I had a long journey ahead with regard to learning tools necessary to do more than survive, but exercise was an instant pick-me-up. Later that year I started teaching spin classes again in my neighborhood and at the local rec center.

A few injuries during 2016 combined with an upcoming busy season in January of 2017 led me to temporarily stop teaching my classes. It was hard, but cutting extra responsibilities out of my life helped me think thoughts that led me to feel some much-needed relief.

It was at about that time, about a year and 3 months after Danny’s first panic attack, he realized he had some childhood trauma to address.

I had some very hard truths to accept.

The combination of not working out, stress from work, not sleeping, not taking time for myself, and emotional eating (because I didn’t have the mental tools to process hard truths) led to some weight gain. Legitimate weight gain.

I’m actually amazed (yet not surprised given the stress I was under) at how quickly my body was able to pack on the pounds 😉. If my body could talk I feel like it would have said something like: “everything is so.freaking.crazy there’s no consistency the world might end so store EVERYTHING just in case!!!” I gained 42 lbs in 18 months.

I was totally buffering away my negative emotions with food.

What is buffering you ask?

Buffering is using something to avoid feeling an emotion, typically a negative one.

We all buffer in different ways. Some people avoid negative emotions with productivity, workouts, video games, Netflix, while others buffer with food, alcohol, sugar, and the list goes on. This doesn’t mean that these things are all bad.

A good question I now ask myself is “why do I want to do this?” To avoid emotion, numb out a bit, or for renewal? Sometimes a Netflix show is just what I need at the end of the day to unwind—and I think that’s great.

I was totally buffering with food. And Netflix. Many nights when I didn’t have to work I LOVED parking myself in front of the tv to watch a favorite show with a treat.

Now is this wrong? NNNOOO. I realize now that I wasn’t loving my circumstance and didn’t want to think about it (because then I’d feel negative emotions). On the other hand, watching a show while eating a treat gave me a quick dopamine hit.

Just before fall in 2017 I thoughts like “ok it’s time.

It’s time to get your butt in gear and sign up for some races again.” I was ready to get back into shape, but there was resistance. This part of me was speaking up saying something like “no, you don’t need to kill it with a race, start small. You need to reconnect with your body. Start with yoga.”

Initially, I didn’t like this idea. “You don’t burn as many calories with yoga” I said to myself.

I signed up for some personal training sessions with a friend of mine. Five sessions in that part of me spoke up again: “Start with yoga.” I hesitantly told this to my trainer. I finished out my personal training with some killer yoga sessions. I finished out my program feeling more connected to myself than I had in the past few years.

I experienced trauma.

I disassociated form my body because I didn’t want to feel the pain and I didn’t have the tools to process that deep emotion. I was finally at a place where I was ready to reconnect. I signed up for classes from an awesome studio in Alpine, UT.

I came away from some of those classes feeling unstoppable and began to love and accept myself more than I ever had in my life—while weighing more than I ever had without a baby inside!

I had heard that if I didn’t love myself now I wasn’t going to suddenly adore myself once I hit my goals. I thought this was interesting and took it to heart. I started choosing to think thoughts that led me to love and accept my body at it’s current weight.

I hit the high on the scale at the end of 2017.

I was amazed at the compassion I gave myself permission to have. Instead of shaming myself and saying things like “you’ll be happy once you fit back into those old jeans” I would think thoughts like

“Of course you gained this weight. Your body did what it knew to do to survive. It acted exactly as it should have. You were dealing with so much. You are just as lovable now as you always have been.”

I said these things and I actually believed them.

Today I’m halfway to returning to my normal body size and pretty stoked about the progress I’ve made. With the weight yes, but to lose it with a healthy attitude of love and abundance has been an incredible experience.

And the cool thing is this: I am doing thought work to get to where I am.

Instead of focusing solely on the “actions” I need to take (which has led me to short-term results in the past) I’m going a few steps further. I got to the root of why this happened so I can be more aware and connected to my mind. It has been very rich and rewarding. I’m excited to see where I’m at by my 36th birthday which happens to be December 31st, 2018.

Xxx

My mental health education

So, remember the first time my husband had a panic attack?

Thanks to a recent episode I’d watched from “Madame Secretary (one of my fav shows btw)” I knew to get a paper bag and have Danny breathe into it, which helped.

I had also heard that anxiety was a combination of nervous excitement and that depression was extended periods of sadness. This may come off as ignorant, and it could even be a little exaggerated, but I really didn’t know much more than this.

Had I been around people with anxiety and depression? Who hasn’t? Did I know a lot about it? Heeeyyyllll no.

It was time to get learning. And wow. I learned so much. 

The biggest source of my education on mental illness came from living with my spouse who suffered greatly with debilitating and oftentimes non-functioning depression and anxiety.

It is the real deal. It is a real thing. I can physically see it in my husband, and our brains are physical parts of our bodies. Sometimes this physical body part, our brain, over-produces or under-produces some hormones that help my husband feel good. Good thing there are humans with degrees that can prescribe drugs to help people when their brain isn’t quite working the way we want it to!

Danny served a church mission in India. When he was there, there was a one-armed member of the seventy who would challenge people to see if anyone could tie their ties faster than him. He always won. I love this story. I think it’s a great example of someone who learned to function with his specific body the way he chose to. Similarly, Danny has gotten to a place where he can manage in life with his depression/anxiety. He has adapted and learned to thrive again.

As humans, I believe we are all on this spectrum of anxiety.

Capture

Some people’s baselines may be higher/lower than others. Some events, genetics, or environments may trigger different levels. Generally, I feel like I reside on the lower end of this spectrum but there have been and will be triggering events that spring me up to a higher level of anxiety (CPA exams, having babies, setting big goals, etc). Personally, managing my mind through thought-work has helped me when these triggering events arise.

Observing Danny’s bomb psychiatrist adjust his cocktail of meds amazed me. Other moving parts contributed to his well-being like exercise, sunlight, diet, sleep, environment, past trauma, and more.

I heard this podcast recently where the host said: “You know the phrase ‘you are what you eat?’ That’s bull. You are what you eat, drink, sleep, look at, think about, watch on tv, etc. Everything you take in makes up who you are.”

There is a reason we have medicine in the world—it is needed! There is a reason professional therapists exist—they are needed! There is a reason I became a Life Coach—because when I was suffering in silence I couldn’t find the support I needed to give me the tools needed to thrive. Lastly, I think there are thoughts we can manage with our minds to get to a healthy headspace.

The more Danny and I chose to open up about our story, the more we realized how prevalent mental illness is. It is SO. COMMON. Other brave people who have shared their experiences with me have also facilitated my mental health education.

Xxx

My willingness to be vulnerable and the immediate support that followed

In the beginning I didn’t want to talk.

My spouse was the one with the unmanageable health problems, yet I was feeling shame—why? Why was I feeling shame because of something/someone I had zero control over? I literally had zero control over his health, his actions, his mind, his ability to work—yet I felt shame.

Where was it stemming from?

At this point, I did not know. In the beginning Danny wanted to keep his health problems a secret, so I followed suit. Guess what shame thrives off of? Secrets.

Danny felt shame, I felt shame, we both had thoughts that created these feelings. His and my actions reinforced the same thing: shame.

At some point for me the silence became unbearable. This was becoming my story too and I needed support (not support to fix him, but to learn how to manage in this situation).

I told a trusted friend. It connected us. She was one of the many angels on earth that kept our family afloat during the busiest times. I told another trusted friend. Turned out she could relate, was a few years ahead of me and was in a place to be another angel.

HOW FREAKING AMAZING IS THIS??!?

Every time I chose to be vulnerable with someone I felt safe with, connection immediately followed (see Brene Brown’s research that confirms this). Why is it that I had so much shame in the beginning? The shame I felt in the beginning had nothing to do with Danny and everything to do with my thoughts.

I was the most fearful of opening up to our old dental school friends. I think it had to do with my insecurities during that phase of my life. And the crazy (but no longer surprising) thing is that these friends wanted only to love and support us! Through my mind management I got to a place where I was excited to go to a dental school reunion last summer! I was excited about being excited to go see old friends!

If this reunion would have been two years earlier, I would not have gone. All of this, and IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF ME LEARNING TO MANAGE MY MIND.

Literally, the circumstance of Danny not working hadn’t changed, but the way I thought about it did and this has made all the difference in the universe.

If you are suffering in silence with anything similar and need support, find safe people to reach out to. I don’t know where the line is between respecting your husband’s privacy and taking care of yourself, but find it—and if you need support, get some. It made a huge difference for me. God works through humans on this earth.

Surrounding yourself with trustworthy safe humans can be one of the best gifts you give yourself.

Xxx

Do you need help or do you know someone that could use my help? Please share.

My Church calling(s) and lack there-of

I am an active member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When I was confused/sad and angry towards God I still desired to go to church.

I did not have all the answers about why “everything was happening to me.” I had set a pattern of going to church weekly.

Sometimes it felt like a waste of time because I would go alone with my three young kids (hubs had bouts of anxiety where church was too triggering for him) late, wrestle with them during the first block, etc. Oddly enough there was always one comment from one person I needed to hear that would sustain me.

I can’t remember what calling I had when everything hit the fan but I do know that I was released and given a much-needed break.

When I did get asked to serve in another capacity I was stretched very thin in my personal life. Time, at this point, was everything to me.

Before accepting, I let the president know a little bit about my situation, what I could handle and exactly what I could commit to. I found this to be very valuable because before I even accepted this calling she knew how much time I could give. I felt good about my service what I could and hopefully she did too. I was eventually released from this calling and a few months later I was asked to accept another.

I said no. I was starting another tax season, we were thinking about moving—I had a lot going on. I said no to a calling and felt 100% ok about it!

The church handbook says that one “circumstance to consider is the overall time demands that members face in supporting their families and taking care of other personal matters.”

We had a lot of personal matters. I had three little children, two part-time jobs (one of which gets a lot busier during tax season), a husband to support in his own recovery, my own recovery—it was a lot.

My point in sharing this is not to show you how to say no to callings.

But if you need to say no, it’s fine!

I had the desire to serve but not the capacity. When I have more capacity to serve, I serve more. This wasn’t my time or season and I felt great about my decision.

The bishopric was very supportive of my but regardless of their actions I felt good about my choice. I know my limits more than anyone else on this planet. I was proud to consciously decide that I love myself too much to spread myself even more thin. As I talk more in later posts, I’ll discuss more about owning our own emotions and letting others own theirs—such powerful stuff!

Xxx

Your ‘active non-calling and content with it’ church member friend 😉

My Decision to go to Therapy

In the beginning I felt so much shame I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

I had a few friends I’d told about Danny’s health problems, but not the piece about porn (per his request). I felt broken in so many ways.

A lot of my biggest fears had come to fruition.

At first, I didn’t “have time” for therapy. I wanted all our resources to go to Danny’s health.

Cuz once he got healthy we’d alllll be better . . . right???? Wrong.

I totally needed therapy. It started as me going to get some validation from a safe person. I learned a lot about anxiety and depression.

Most importantly, she facilitated my healing (processing of grief and trauma).

I had disconnected from my body to avoid emotional pain—she helped me begin to reconnect.

This was scary yet so incredibly necessary. I started to heal (My husband wrote a great post on trauma  if you want to get more background).

Some people would rather just let themselves be healed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ without professional help.

Let me suggest one thing: God works through humans to heal. There are human doctors that keep diabetics alive with a series of tests, insulin, etc. There are people that beat cancer, thanks to the knowledge and experience of human oncologists. People who can see again thanks to highly trained human ophthalmologists. When we have trauma, or emotional problems, why in the world would I have resisted going to a skilled therapist? God works through humans to heal. I needed a therapist to help me with my emotional health.

My path to recovery started when I began therapy. And the Atonement, in conjunction with the other temporal tools I accessed, healed me.

My sudden role as provider, caretaker, with three kids ages 5 and below

I want to preface that this is where my thoughts were, not where they are today. This distinction is important because our thoughts create our results in life.

I always assumed I’d go back to work—once my kids were all in elementary school—to fill up my days.

But going back to work while nursing a baby, with two other young kids and a husband in a caretakee-state? This was not an easy pill to swallow. I’d checked off all of the right boxes so I definitely wouldn’t be working again this soon! However, after about a month of Danny not working I could tell he wouldn’t be back in the saddle anytime soon.

I interviewed and accepted two part-time jobs.

In the beginning I only went back to work 2 days/week.

I.was.miserable.

I cried while during my commute for the first 3 weeks. Danny was too debilitated to be left alone with the kids. Between 3 amazing women (MIL, nanny, and neighbor) the kids were covered.

During busier work periods our neighbors rallied around our family. One occasionally brought over fresh food she knew I’d like (and picked up weekly Costco loot!), others let my kids play at their homes, another took Maya to/from school, my parents came down often to take the kids somewhere fun, etc. I am still so grateful for all of the support we received from dear neighbors and close family.

The waiting game to find the right cocktail of medicine took time.

I knew by working I was doing what was necessary for our family but this offering tore me apart. I needed to process some trauma and grief.

In retrospect, I needed to feel and process these emotions completely.

However, if I would have had the proper mind-management tools I don’t think I would have stayed in victim mode for as long as I did.

I felt like everything was happening to me. I had compassion for my husband and his situation—but felt like a victim in this scenario too.

It was like I was on this sprinting horse, reacting to its erratic behavior and trying to stay on.

Today, I’m still on this horse but I have taken the reins. It feels oh so good. I have learned so much through therapy and coaching that I decided to shift into a career where I can to do something I’m more passionate about—helping people!!!

Even though I would have chosen to feel a lot of the negative feelings I had over the years, I believe I could have alleviated personal suffering with more mind management. If you know someone who could benefit from any of these posts, please share!

My anger/despair I reconciled with God

All my life I had this mentality that if I “check the boxes” life would be good. This was a thought. An optional thought that I chose to believe.

High school graduate, √

Technical undergraduate degree, √

Met and married a nice man with similar values, √

Technical Master’s degree, √

Supported spouse as he went for career dreams, √

Worked my booty off while he was in dental school, √

Passed the CPA exam, √

I’d checked off all these boxes and chose to think that I was entitled to coast through a pretty chill life. Sure we’d still have problems, but at least we did a lot of upfront leg-work to get these accomplishments under our belts so that future problems would be ‘less hard.’

I had my first baby, Maya, and said goodbye to the working world for a while. I was elated to be in a situation where I could be home with my baby. I had enough hobbies and sociability to feel fulfilled.

Competed in and finished my second olympic triathlon, √

Hubs graduated from dental school, √

We reached our goals! We moved to Oregon. We had another baby, Marcus.

We set more goals like doing Insanity every day for the duration of the program, √

Moved back to Utah to be closer to family.

D found a great job and was on track to become a partner, √

We moved into a house in a beautiful neighborhood, √

I got certified to become a spin instructor, √

We had our third baby, Gwen.

The pressure Danny was putting on himself to be everything—perfectly—was too much.

He had his first panic attack. Everything changed.

I was left feeling more alone than I ever had before. Trying to keep it together in front of the kids and repeatedly questioning God, “Why?!? Why me?! Why us?!? We checked off these damn boxes! We are good people, we have done good things! We have been responsible! This isn’t fair!”

I grieved, I complained to God, my faith was questioned and tested.

Although it was getting chipped at, my foundation remained strong. I was still mad/confused at God.

I spent a lot of time questioning this path that was “thrust upon me”—It’s not what I chose. I received blessings that said that God was aware of me. Those sustained my inkling of hope that things could get better.

Gradually, as I opened up more to God, I chose to think thoughts that led to me feeling His influence more in my life.

Today, when I look back at where I was during this time, I don’t regret my thoughts directed towards him. I think of Heavenly Father as this Being with a killer self-esteem. He would have wanted me to go to him with all my fears, doubts, worries, anger, etc. He can handle it without taking it personally (I was taking everything personally). Just like we would want our children to come to us with their fears, I believe Heavenly Father wants the same.

Finally, after three years, I’m seeing the green my friends. I have made a lot of unorthodox decisions over the past year, but I feel strongly that God is guiding me through this journey of life. It’s crazy. It’s hard. It’s crazy hard.

I’m starting to see the bigger purpose of my trials, and it’s beautiful. I love who I have become through this. I love that even if I had to step back a bit from my communication with Heavenly Father and take time to assess things He stayed constant. I love that when I decided to open back up to Him He was there, as He had always been, waiting for me with open arms.

My Trauma

I’d like to preface these posts with a few thoughts – this is where my thinking was THREE YEARS AGO, not today. I can’t change the past, but I can rewrite my thoughts about it (this has been monumental to my healing).

I thought I had it all, three healthy children, incredible hardworking spouse, a beautiful home, etc.

Continuing from the prior post, in a span of 4-5 days some things I was certain of no longer existed.

I was no longer certain that my husband loved me fully and completely.

I was no longer certain that I could trust my husband.

I was no longer certain of our financial future as a family.

I was no longer certain that I was good enough. I had a three-month-old baby so of course my body was recovering from that business, it felt like I had gotten hit while I was already down.

I felt the deep betrayal from the man I trusted most. Nothing had ever shaken me to my core like this.

Some deep-seeded beliefs I thought I had gotten rid of came back with a vengeance.

In my first therapy session the general therapist told me to make time for self-care. I was a little annoyed.  “Uh, I don’t need self-care, I need tools to help my husband!” I never went back to that therapist but she was right. I needed to learn to take care of myself.

I had this recurring thought that “we need to get Danny the best possible healthcare, etc. so that he could go back to work again and things could go back to normal.”

I meant it in the purest and most loving way I knew, but we weren’t ever going to get back to our old normal.

According to Jill Thomas’s analogy Seeing Green, I had lived in a life of blue and it was great. Soooo great. I was content with blue. When these successive events occurred I was thrust into yellow. I didn’t like yellow! Blue was comfortable, blue was good, “take me back!” I cried.

Jill said that living life in blue, then yellow, she eventually saw green as the Master had intended. A space where she could experience blue and yellow together—and glorious green!

I welled up as I listened thinking “but what if I don’t want to see green? At this point I couldn’t imagine that possibility. There was a glimmer of hope, but I had some work to do.

I was in a state of betrayal trauma and exhibited PTSD-like symptoms. According to Dr. Kevin Skinner, trauma is a separation from self, others, and society that occurs based on what one has experienced. We can become separated from our mindfulness, thoughts, and body sensations.

This was me. In the past I was able to disassociate from my body to get through a tough workout or avoid negative emotionsI now did this instinctively to avoid the pain I didn’t have tools to handle. Another thing Kevin Skinner mentioned is his belief that you can’t separate trauma and PTSD. PTSD is a manifestation of trauma.

I knew I needed to grieve but didn’t know how. Kathy Kinghorn, a specialized CSAT therapist, helped me do what I couldn’t do for myself.

She helped me process and release my trauma.

I still had a long way to go in my recovery, but I was making progress.

Looking back, I did have it all: three healthy children, a hardworking HUMAN husband, a beautiful house, and more. We have created a new normal that I love and I can now say I’m seeing green! It took time to get here, and my point in sharing is for those who are looking for some hope to cling to.

My experience with betrayal

Looking back this time was so dark.

I recognize now that I chose this.

Hubs (who has given me consent to share) had been looking at porn. It could be considered mild on the spectrum of addiction, but it was still was just that—an addiction.

In the past he had talked to ecclesiastical leaders and even therapists who told him he was fine and didn’t have a problem—which he chose to believe.

One day he texted me from work to see if we could talk that night.

Through tears he told me he needed help—it.gutted.me.

I don’t share this to disparage my husband but purely to give a little background to my story.

This happened within a few days of his first panic attack.

My world had literally turned upside down.

It felt as though everything I was certain of in my life vanished. And trauma ensued . . . .

My History

This is a story of me before and after I realized I was in charge of creating my own happiness in life.

There are some details in this story that aren’t fun to talk about, but I wanted to share them for people who are where I was three years ago: clinging to any glimpse of hope that life would get better.

I grew up in a small suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. I was raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Met my husband, Danny, in Thailand the summer after completing my coursework at BYU.

We got married in 2006. We did the usual “check the box” things you do as a couple, work to see each other, work out together, set goals and dreams together and supported each other in reaching them.

I went on to get a master’s degree in Tax from the University of Utah while Danny got his bachelor’s degree in Business Finance while applying/interviewing with dental schools all over the country. We moved to the charming town of South Pasadena in August of 2008. Danny started dental school at USC and I began working as an accountant at a large accounting firm in downtown LA.

In 2010 Maya, our oldest, was born. In 2012, Danny graduated, and we moved to Oregon for his first post-dental school job. Marcus, our second child, was born at the tail end of 2012. We moved back to Utah in 2013 where Danny continued working as a dentist. In 2014 we bought our first house! In 2015 we welcomed our third child, Gweneth, to the family. Danny was also planning to buy into his practice that year.

Then . . . in late 2015 . . . our lives 180’d (from my perspective, at least).

Danny had his first panic attack.

He took the day off, then a week, then didn’t go back in. He could not manage his emotions.

He had gone from working as a dentist easily making six figures to a caretakee-like state.

I had a 4, 2, and 3-month-old and now a husband who couldn’t fall asleep without help.

And so it begins . . .