Christmas Hope

Mental Wellness: A personal journey

A column by Tammy Zollinger

December has been a challenging month. On the evening of my last submission, my husband told me of a family we know that lost someone to suicide. A few days later, a Facebook friend posted that a 4th grade child in her sons class took his own life. I’ve felt numb. Unable to put into words the loss I’ve felt even though I wasn’t personally close to either of these precious people.

It’s been a long battle for myself, unbelievably difficult at times. Wondering when the torment will end, questioning the reason behind my suffering, and when, if ever, I may feel whole. This year, one like many of us have never seen, I guess was my year of breakthrough. I shared that in May I suffered a nervous breakdown, moved out of my home, essentially walking away from my family and responsibilities. I started counselling again, twice a week, going back to those dark places of trauma I had to confront. Each session left me feeling drained, physically and emotionally, but somehow at the same time, a little more free. It felt awkward going back into those memories as an adult, yelling and screaming at my offenders. Although I never imagined the physical violence I would have liked to bestow on these people, just knowing that capability was there helped.

The mind, a powerful organ, capable of things we can’t conceive of. The guardian of memories, the manager of emotions, and also, the erector of prison walls and bars. I look back on those sessions and feel like they were the keys to me escaping my prison. Each memory I took captive and changed the outcome, I felt were the bars being broken open and I was released, little by little. What happened in real life hasn’t changed, but my mindset has. I can’t go back in time and change reality, but I can change the way I respond to it. Now that I feel more in control, even if it’s in my imagination, my freedom from depression and anxiety has become more apparent.

I decided in October to stop taking my anti-anxiety and depression medication. After a bout a week of adjusting, I was amazed at the progress I had made. My daughters and husband noticed a huge shift in my mental health. I was laughing more, smiling more. The longer hours of juggling harvest and the goats were less of an issue than they had been the two years prior. My desire for alcohol became almost non existent. With some other foundational truths my counsellor taught me along with her guidance in dealing with the trauma, I can say today I feel more “Me” than I ever have. I am not 100% yet, and that is perfectly fine. It took 25+ years to get where I am, it’s going to take time to get back out. I’m reminded of the phrase, “I’m not where I want to be, but I thank God I’m not where I used to be.” Many times I told my counsellor “I should be doing better”, “I should be making faster progress”, looking back the list of “shoulds” I had were unattainable. I felt at the time if I wasn’t working, wasn’t at home taking care of responsibilities, and able to just focus on me, this process should quick and easy. I smile thinking about that now. I learned taking my time through healing and absorbing the positives and lessons are far more important than trying to get a quick fix.

I had wanted to wait to share my progress for some future writings, but felt now was the time. Christmas is normally a difficult time of year, and a normal season for increased suicides. The pandemic we have been thrown into and the restrictions that keep us from seeing loved ones made me wonder if now would be the best time to share, not as a glorification of myself, but to offer a glimpse of hope for anyone who may be struggling this season. After 25 years of depression, I am so much better. I don’t know how long you’ve struggled, and really the length of time doesn’t matter, but there is hope. There is a chance for healing and wholeness. Will it take work, absolutely! Will it push you to the brink of giving up, yes! But, the rewards are worth it. I never thought I would ever be free. I never thought I would escape my prison walls. Yet, here I am. A voice for those who don’t have one, and hopefully providing something to keep close and read when life seems overwhelming.

As I said in my first column, “You are not alone”! I’ve had many people reach out sharing their stories and struggles and I applaud each and every one of you! It’s of the utmost importance to have support as you’re walking this road. Especially to have someone who understands, can sympathize and relate. If you don’t have anyone, please reach out. I was blessed to have amazing people beside me to walk this journey of hell and back and who now celebrate with me in my freedom!! I never wanted my pain and suffering to be for nothing, and now it’s my turn to give back. If you want someone to just listen, or read an email, or text with, please get in touch with me. Sometimes even a perfect stranger is easier to talk to than a friend. I can be found on Facebook, Tammy Lynn Zollinger, and also by email, Tammy.Zollinger@gmail.com.

Be safe my friends, but be mentally healthy as we face the uncertainties of the future. Again, you are not alone. Merry Christmas to all!
Much love,
Tammy

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