When I met depression first hand in my husband for the first time in 2012, I did not think it was a gift. We had 2 small kids, I was pregnant with our third, money was incredibly tight, I was hustling like crazy to build my business. And then depression hit. And it hit like a Mack truck.
I hated depression. I hated that it made my husband look at himself in such an ugly manner. I hated that someone I loved so much, felt so unlovable. I hated that depression made it exceedingly difficult for my husband to get out of bed for days at a time, unable to enjoy anything. I hated that depression reduced a happy go lucky, positive man who loved family life so abundantly, to a shell of a former person who could barely smile. Along with hating depression I was angry with God, I was angry with other people who meant well but said things that felt judgmental and insensitive. They felt like salt on open wounds and I was angry that I could not do a single thing to make it go away quickly. I was terrified and felt completely alone.
But we prevailed- and as I shared in a previous post on the topic of supporting a spouse who has mental illness, I now embrace depression. It doesn't define us, it has not beaten us, and while it was incredibly difficult to get to this point, I now see it as a gift. Here are a few reasons why:
1. It has made our marriage stronger and more authentic
If you've been reading along, you know I'm on a real authenticity kick. It's really easy to put pretty things out into the world, create beautiful rooms, write great articles and count the hearts, the likes, the re-tweets etc., and feel applauded. But feeling loved, for the real you, the one behind the lens and the filters is a whole other exercise. Let me tell you, when depression is active there aint no pretty filter. It's raw, and it's gross, for both partners in the relationship. We cried many times together in sheer desperation. But we also revealed more about each other through the tears- the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful- and I truly feel as a result I know Josh's authentic self pretty transparently, and he knows mine. And that is beautiful. And while I am not arguing that it needs to take a challenging situation like depression to reveal deep parts of ourselves to our spouses, a great gift out of our experience with depression both during and after, is that we both wrung ourselves completely out and loved each other back with full force.
2. I trust in God's grace more
I have been thinking a lot lately about "hustle" and how it is celebrated so much today, almost as the recipe for success. Well let me tell you, you cannot hustle your way out of depression. Living through depression is like walking in sticky tar. It's not a fast journey in my experience and requires a lot of work to clean up after you're done. So while we were knee deep in the muck, there was a lot of relying on God's grace to pull us through. There were definitely times when I did not know He was there- but I can unequivocally say that it is with His grace that we prevailed as we have- cause grace does what hustling can't.
3. We fight less
Ok, debatably we fight less, depends on which spouse you ask. When depression was at its worst, Josh hurt my feelings a lot. He never meant to, but in the beginning when I didn't understand what happens in the brain and body during depression (ie it is often uncontrollable- not the kind of thing one can "snap out of" or will yourself to get over) I would do things or say things and not get the response I was expecting. Josh was never rude, but it was challenging to me that things I would do, that normally brought him joy like a home cooked meal or a thoughtful gift would be met with disinterest. As a result, I learned to not take things so personally. I love the expression Brené Brown uses in regards to misses in communication: "the story I am telling myself is you don't appreciate me… Or the story I am telling myself is you don't value me…" I did not have this expression back then, but I was exercising the muscle of not taking things so personally- and that has had wonderful ramifications post depression in our rear view. While I am no doormat (ask Josh and he'll tell you!) I definitely am not as quick to take small things so personally. And with 5 kids ages 6 and under, if I took everything personally I would never get out the door of our house!
4. We can help others
When I wrote this post on how to support a spouse suffering from mental illness, more than 5000 unique people from all over the world read it in one day. To date I continue to get emails from all over the world sharing personal stories of their struggles and how our story made them feel less alone. And isn't that the most powerful aspect of the Internet? It allows us to connect with people we might otherwise not have met and journey with them. My journey with my husband's depression is an open book, and I am happy to share the ride if it will help.
5. It has helped me be proactive
I am no mental health expert, but experience has shown me that everyone has various thresholds when it comes to dealing with stress or anxiety. I believe my personal threshold is pretty high- I have Achiever in my Strength Finder strengths so I often persevere through things. My husband's, and I would argue others who battle with anxiety or depression on an ongoing basis have shorter thresholds that are impacted by things like stress, people, the weather, loud environments, etc. Experiencing depression so intimately has shown me what some common triggers are for us, and I have concrete tools to help manage stress in us both. Notably, the most important tool I have to be proactive is how we schedule our time. I aim for lots of margin.
In Canada this Wednesday it's #BellLetsTalk Day, where this media outlet draws tons of attention around mental health in general. Watching some of the documentaries etc. when depression entered my life more personally in 2012 was very comforting. If you're reading this, and you or someone you love suffers from mental illness, and are struggling and cannot see the hope or any light, you are not alone. You do not suffer alone. You will get through the muck. You will arrive on the other side. You will be victorious. You have so much value. You are so incredibly loved.
Something that gave me a ton of hope that I cling to all the time is this verse from Jeremiah (29:11) "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans for a future full of hope." May we all find a little hope this week.
Last week I shared about my struggles to be authentic both online and off, and shared a concrete tool you can use if you'd like to meet your authetnic self. It's been quite the week, as I sat with the cotnent and actually did the Post-it note exercise myself. I even Periscoped it- which was crazy scary. From all my Post-its, I came up with a few sentences that in a sense summarize all the sentiments expressed in my exercise:
Family life at home is beautiful.
Motherhood is beautiful.
Speaking truth is beautiful.
Your home life can be well designed.
Your work life can be well designed.
Your life can be well designed.
Those six statements really sum up the core of who I am, what I find easy to talk about and what excites me. So much of what fuels my interior design business is the concept of families thriving at home. Through my 2-hour consutlations, I use my strategy skills to ensure that this home is going to serve a family so well, set them up for functional success and set the stage for making memories and finding joy. I'm kinda obsessed with this notion!
Sitting with all this content (and reading all these books on the content of vulnerability- Brené Brown you are amazing!) I've realized how much authenticity translates into home decor as well. When I look at my favourite rooms on the internet or in my portfolio, they all speak LOUD AND CLEAR about the people who inhabit it. Your home should really tell the story of who you are as a family- if you looked around right now what story are you telling?
If you'd like your home to reveal more of you, here are 5 ways to make your home decorating more authentic.
1. USE MEANINGFUL PHOTOGRAPHY
Photographs are an amazing way to tell an authentic story in a space- and they are probably the fastest and simplest way to infuse originality and share something meaningful. This is a shot from our home office. Above the desk is a photo of the interior of the church we got married in, but from the 1950's. My husband stumbled upon this photo in archives and we both just love the reverence and simplicity of the image. This image depicts a part of the liturgy that is very sacred, and it's meaningful for us to look at when hard at work at the desk. Photographs are a great way to tell a family's story as you can print them as large scale or small scale as you like, and at a relatively low cost- this project cost about $75 for the oversize print and store bought frame. Also consider a grouping of shots that can illustrate family history or meaningful memories.
2. COMMISSION ORIGINAL ART
My husband does a yearly trip with university students to areas in south and central America, working with local communities to do volunteer initiatives. It's amazing work, and changes lives, and when our first child was 14 months we had the experience to go alongside Josh and a group of students to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was an intense time- I was very challenged by the poverty I saw, and completely transformed by the faith I witnessed in people who had so little. I knew I wanted to have something in my home to remind me of the experience, so I had my friend Becky Simpson create this encaustic painting of the Rio skyline. Original art is, as the name suggests, original! And if budget allows is a beautiful way to tell your story.
3. USE HEIRLOOM FAMILY FURNITURE
This dressing table belonged to my grand mother, my mom, to me and now to my daughter. There is something so beautiful and meaningful about a furniture piece that has passed through the hands of several family members. Consider changing hardware or giving the piece a new coat of paint to make it work with your current decor.
Books are another relatively inexpensive way to tell the story of who you are. Coffee table books not only look beautiful, but the titles and textures tell a compelling story of your interests and values as well. In my own living room it's always a mix of decorating, religious, and kids' books : )
5. Meaningful handwritten quotes
I love typography as art- but let's keep it real there is A LOT of cheesy stuff out there. But, when done beautifully, elegantly, and by hand- like this gorgeous print by Dear Lillie, I think it can speak quite literally of your family's values and what you stand for. It can act as a family motto of sorts displayed in a public space, or a motivational quote in an office or bedroom.
I'd love to know what you do in your home to express your authentic story- please tag me on instagram @lisacanning with an image of your own space!
A friend of mine shared this article to Facebook and it really rocked me- 17 Successful People Show How to Become Unmistakable. Particularly, this quote by Jon Acuff really challenged me:
“I think to be unmistakable is to live out who you are in all your uniqueness and use the gifts you were given. It’s the bravery to march into the deep forest of who you are and be that person.”
How many of us can say we are truly using the gifts we have been given? How many of us march deeply into the forest of who we are? And moreover, can we do it online?
Both online and off, but more so online, I struggle with being authentic. I struggle with comparison. I struggle with looking at the beautifully curated lives of other people on Instagram and forgetting that behind every beautiful photo is another side of the room that likely has a screaming toddler and messy clutter in it. As Jen Flores put it so clearly in a recent blog post, it can be easy to get disengaged when looking at beautiful, glossy images when our own lives look nothing like that colour coordinated group of 9 squares.
There was a time when I REALLY struggled with comparison and it basically debilitated me. I compared myself so much to every interior designer I came across and always thought- if I just gain a bit more experience I can have a portfolio like them. If I just work a little harder I can afford a lifestyle like them. If I just save a little more money I can buy a handbag like them- and I'll have made it.
It pains me to think how much I let other people control decisions about my own life- all in the pursuit of "making it". I did it far too often, and it took several years of prayer, coaching and hard interior work on myself to get out of that practice, develop a backbone and change.
Fast forward to 2016- and while I don't compare myself as much to others- I limit myself in a whole new way. I am my own worst limiting factor.
To use the analogy of the forest- I am on the periphery. I am waving hi to the beautiful interior but I cannot go in. The forest looks amazing but I am afraid of what will happen when I go inside and really be that person. It's like I can see the most beautiful waterfall and I am parched with thirst- but even though I need the water so badly- I won't move my feet.
And what does this all boil down to?!? Why will I not move my feet? FEAR.
Anyone else suffer like I do? Anyone else afraid of what might happen if they speak from their truly authentic self? Anyone else afraid of the rejection of what might happen, or the success that might occur if they are really honest online?
And I'm not talking necessarily about sharing every aspect of one's life on the internet- cause there is lots of room for appropriate privacy too. But what I'm talking about is- can we share the joy and vibrancy of a beautiful life, but also reveal an authentic life with depth and meaning? Can we share the beauty and the struggle?
Here's my promise to you my dear readers: I want to authentically tell the story of my life.
Here's the quick version: I am married to an amazing man who is my best friend and who gets paid to bring Jesus to other people. I have 5 kids, and we have had them in 7 years, they are all 6 and under, and yes, we'll probably have more. I drive a minivan and am proud of it. I love my interior design business and earning a living but I love balance more. If I could stand on a soapbox I would fight for motherhood to be valued, and try to encourage other mothers to not look at having children as an impediment to success. If I live to age 90, you will probably find me, God willing, running an Alpha course at our local church next to my husband, children, and grandchildren, living in a house I continue to redecorate and fill with fresh flowers daily. My house, while beautiful, is often a mess. Finally, I feel most alive when I am with all my kids on a new adventure, using my strategy strength, or leading a worship song of praise.
If you are looking for one concrete way to find your authentic self, Lisa Ferguson of 1000wattlife.com suggests the following exercise. Shut off distractions and without any filter dump everything you currently are on post-it notes. Then put them on a blank wall and start grouping them into three groups:
1) I uniquely am
2) I am when I compare myself to others
3) I am because this is who someone else wanted me to be
Then sit back and reflect on your true self group and identify one strategy to embrace those attributes more. Where you let others direct your path, get clarity on why and create a strategy to stop this behaviour in the future. For more of Lisa's thought provoking thoughts check out her Instagram feed here.
Thanks for coming alongside my journey into the forest- I too am happy to walk with you in yours! xo Lisa
Resolutions are great- but not if they don't stick. Are you with me? You swear that this time will be THE time that you'll pray more, get up early, finally work out, finally learn French but a week goes by and the Bible has dust on it, you still hit the snooze button, you go to the gym just to use the massage chair and no you still can't read the massage chair instructions en francais.
I've got some GIANT personal and professional goals this year, and am so excited to tackle them. I have done a ton of visioning work over the holidays, including taking Michael Hyatt's Best Year Ever course (really loving the VIP level private Facebook group!) and re-looking at materials from a course I did last year called B-School by Marie Forleo- both have been invaluable in helping me clarify where I want to go this year and exactly what I want to accomplish.
If you want to make your resolutions stick, here are some questions to ask yourself, to remind yourself of the true reason this goal is worth completing:
1. What will I gain by completing this goal?
One of my goals for this year is to continue with regular exercise. I truthfully do not enjoy working out. Despite the fact that I have made my home gym a really enjoyable space to be in, I have invested in a personal trainer because without her showing up I honestly wouldn't do it. However, I remind myself I have many things to gain, including strength for my kids, more energy throughout the day, and less fat on my body. So like with exercise and weight loss, which can be a painful one to accomplish, remind yourself of what you'll gain- and the momentary pain is worth the long term gain.
2. Who can I help by completing this goal?
Making healthy food choices for me and my family is another goal I am constantly working on. And this year, it has been helpful to remind myself of who I am helping by sticking to the commitment of eating healthy- my kids and my husband. The answer to this question can stretch pretty far and have pretty incredible impact depending on your work / the goal you are setting- and is a great question to keep front and center for anyone with a personal message and an audience. The impact of your goal could be huge for the people you serve- and that can be pretty motivating.
3. What will I lose by not completing this goal?
Some of my goals for this year are around margin and ensuring I invest my time in the right areas. If I don't do this, and I book myself too busy, I stand to lose a lot of things- personal balance, precious time with my young kids, a healthy marriage, a healthy non sleep deprived body. This is a great question for me to ask myself to ensure I fight for margin.
Happy new year dear readers- here's to an AMAZING best year ever. For more help on goal setting check out Michael Hyatt's podcast on goal setting here, my post on how to plan your ideal week, and a post I wrote last year on 5 simple ways to make to make your year amazing.
What are your goals this year? Love to know what you are fighting for this 2016!