To continue celebrating our Two Year Birthday, we are running A Day In The Life series of all our Defying Shadows writers. We hope this encourages you as you get to know us better! Enjoy!
Name: Melinda VanRy
Mental Health Struggles:
Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety
My psychiatrist hasn’t taken Bipolar Disorder off the table, but is looking more at Complex PTSD… I’m not always the most cooperative when it comes to digging into things with others… some borderline personality disorder tendencies…
What does an average day look like for you? (Don’t be afraid to share about your mental health struggles!)
Typically, my days are too busy. As well as blogging, I’m a freelance writer/editor/proofreader. Not doing too much freelancing right now, as I’m focusing on the blogging thing. I’m also a homeschooling mom of three kids, ages 14, 11, and 7. I spend too much time at the computer, but it’s rarely enough to get enough done.
Something I rarely do is go to the grocery store. It’s just one of my… “places.” Fellow anxiety sufferers, you know what I mean. I guess you could say grocery shopping on my own is a trigger. If I go by myself, it’s all too possible I’ll find myself overwhelmed by all. those. rows. And they’re just so full of… stuff. I can’t remember where the things I need are. I get tunnel vision. I forget what I came for. Is it really necessary to be here?!?
I try to start my day reading my Bible with breakfast. But too often lately I get distracted checking messages and going online on my phone first. My phone is my alarm clock. When I was younger, I wasn’t a breakfast person. That changed while I was expecting my first child. I need breakfast. NEED it. A big glass of water, too.
What steps do you find help you when struggling with your mental health struggles?
I see my psychiatrist regularly. At times I need to see her more frequently than others. On an every-three-months schedule at the moment. Yay! I remind myself that yes, I do need to stay on meds even when I think I’m doing fine. And I try to keep up with healthy habits, even when I don’t feel like it – eat healthy and regularly, drink enough water, exercise, socialize and cultivate healthy friendships, serve others, attend church, read my Bible every day, and pray… Okay, I’m not so great at consistency in all of these, but I know they’re all important and I’m learning to be intentional. One step at a time. Another important thing is to not beat myself up when I stumble but get back up, brush myself off, and keep moving forward.
How do you find your mental health struggles affect those around you?
As is typical of people suffering depression, I isolate as the light fades and life is losing its flavor. People are too much effort when I can’t bear the weight of my self. This can make marriage and parenting difficult. It’s not their fault, but, particularly from a child’s perspective, withdrawal from interaction, the lack of smiles and affectionate touch, are taken personally. When I retreat into my head, it creates a sense of insecurity. I know that for me, feeling insecure in a relationship triggers fear. Fear of abandonment and fear of loss of control.
An unfortunate result of feeling powerless is to take on blame. Blame leads to shame, which, although painful, can be easier to bear than accepting we were powerless. I’m still dealing with and wading through the effects of my mother’s mental illness on my life. I’m 43.
The ripple effect of my episodes of suicidal depression, and how my anxiety regularly affects my behavior and how I handle situations, will go on for an unknowable time. Unfortunately. It saddens me. But, again, if I dwell on past shortcomings, I only hobble myself today. I need to live in this moment, not in regret over the past or fear of the future.
What’s one thing you love about yourself?
I can tell you one thing I don’t love about myself, and that’s being asked to accept that there are things about myself worth loving enough to state out loud. I love that I am able to share my struggles to encourage others.
What are five things you are thankful for (other than family, friends, food and shelter –home)?
Lamotrigine, sold under the brand-name Lamictal, that is keeping me from falling over the edge, back into the pit.
The sense of taste.
Interestingly as I look through the list of things that first came to mind, aside from the first, they’re all things that are affected by my mental illness/mental health. I love color, and communicating, and hearing, and tasting, but the way I perceive and interact with the world changes so much as I slide into depression. Sometimes I’m giddy with the pleasure of the colors of everything around me, or the taste of… so many foods. They’re amazing. And words! I just want to type, type, type and talk, talk, talk. They’re good days. Some moments get a little too big and get away from me; I’m too large to contain myself. But, generally, I love those days. They’re the best days. Everything is beautiful. Bumps in the road are manageable, and I can do all the things I want to do, need to do. The future is a bright place I can get to.
Then there are the days when the colors are muted but so intense they hurt my eyes. My fingers won’t type, or they pour out darkness and pain untempered by hope; to speak seems foreign and difficult. Everything is too quiet to hear properly and so loud it hurts. Food is something I’m told is necessary but I don’t care; it’s too much effort and doesn’t taste good when I make myself eat it. The world is bleak and no hope lies ahead.
I typically live in between. More often a little grayer than I’d like. But, well, that’s life… or, um, minor? depression. Life goes on. Not without pleasure.
Music through my noise-cancelling headphones immerses me in sound I enjoy, and helps me focus when I’m trying to work. Headphones are also a tool to deal with anxiety. Just shut. it. all. out.
How has your life changed for the best from last year?
Every day is one day further from my last time in the pit of suicidal depression. Other than that, well, I’m too often in the gray that just sees the sameness of day after day after day and lacks hope for improvement in the future.
What’s your personal motto?
Motto… I haven’t adopted one. But several years ago I chose a Bible verse for the year. Micah 6:8. Which, in the NASB, is,
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
What song is most played on your playlist?
I’ve been listening to a lot of NEEDTOBREATHE and For King and Country lately. One of my current favorites is NEEDTOBREATHE’s Through Smoke. Their Wasteland is another favorite. I recently came across Bebo Norman’s Drifting, and I love almost everything on Jason Gray’s A Way to See in the Dark.
If you had to pick a character from a movie or tv show, who do you relate most to?
I have no clue.
What motivates you?
My faith. My family. I often believe my kids have deserved better than the parenting I’ve given them. But I think that’s a struggle for all good parents. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. But I know I can do better, and need to always strive to do what’s best for them when I don’t care about what happens to me.
God has brought me through very dark times. I felt abandoned and beyond grace, but I wasn’t. I do my best in every area of my life when I rely on Him for wisdom and strength.
Melinda VanRy writes about mental illness and faith on her Fruit of Brokenness blog. She wants everyone to know they have inestimable worth, though she often fails to believe it for herself. Bouts of severe depression have nearly destroyed her but instead make her stronger and give her a desire to help others who struggle with mental illness and faith as she does. Melinda lives in New York with her husband, their three kids, and more cats than she ever wanted. If you’re thinking big city, don’t. The VanRy family makes their home in rural Central New York. Way closer to Canada than New York City. And not far from Lake Ontario, which she loves.