Lessons Learned Through Mental Illness: #1. Self Worth

You Are Good Enough Just The Way You Are

Over the past few years, my husband Jeff and I have gone through a rollercoaster ride that we never expected or anticipated. Things have changed so much over the last few years and I have had the privilege to learn so much from these experiences.

I have shared a few highlights of the mental health journey that Jeff and I have gone through together over the last few years: My anxiety, his depression, his bipolar diagnosis, etc. Now I want to share a bit more of our stories on a deeper level and also share some of the biggest things I’ve learned from these experiences.

We joke that we’ve had to deal with some very heavy things in our 6 years of marriage that some people never have to deal with in a lifetime. I pray that most will never have to.

Throughout my writing, you will see some spiritual stuff sprinkled throughout because I think it is absolutely impossible to tell this story without referencing God. God has opened my eyes and carried me through the hard times. He gives me strength every day. I believe that God has us go through challenges to teach us what’s really important, re-direct us, and bring us closer to Him.

This will be the first post in a series of posts related to lessons I have learned through my experience with mental illness and caring for a husband with a mental illness. I hope that you find my stories insightful and thought-provoking.

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The Good Life

I married my husband Jeff in 2014. We had been together for 5.5 years. We were college sweethearts and best friends.

Things were going really well for us. We both are very driven and goal-oriented by nature, and we were both doing well in our careers. When we were in our mid-20’s, we felt like we were on top of the world.

In our spare time, we loved to go out to eat at new restaurants, take weekend trips to New York City, and train for marathons and triathlons. We were living the classic DINK life (Dual income, no kids). We bought a house, drove luxury cars, and traveled to some awesome places. I had everything I thought I wanted.

No Such Thing as Perfection

Those were some of the good things that were happening in our lives. As we all know, no one’s life is perfect. At the same time, I was struggling with isolation, loneliness, and anxiety.

Living in New Jersey, I was hundreds of miles away from my family and most of my friends. This was really tough. I spent a lot of time immersing myself in hobbies like running to distract myself from the feeling of loneliness.

Driven to Succeed; Rooted in Insecurity

At the same time, I became hyper-focused on achievement. I was driven to be the best at almost everything I did. On the outside, this looked great and I got a lot of positive feedback. But in reality, this was being driven by insecurity and fear of not being good enough. I had everything I thought I wanted, so why was I feeling this way?

I began seeing an amazing therapist when I was 28 years old. She helped me to work through this and start to see things in a much healthier way.

What she helped me to discover is that I had this relentless focus on achievement because of the bullying that took place in my early adolescence. I wrote a bit about this in a previous post.

A part of me, deep in my subconscious, still held on to the negative things they said. Because of that, I was driven to be the best to prove myself. Being successful was my way of proving to the bullies, and myself, that I was good enough. Sort of like a “look at me now” kind of thing.

This belief was rooted in low self-esteem and fear. Making this discovery and bringing this to light was eye-opening and the catalyst for me to start living my life for myself.

Breaking Free

I did not want to be a slave to the bullies in my head. They did not deserve one more minute of my attention.

After doing lots of work with my therapist, I realized that I did not need to prove that I was good enough to anyone. I didn’t need to prove it to myself either. I was good enough just as I was, regardless of any achievements and recognition.

She suggested a book to me that really struck a chord and changed my perspective. It’s actually a children’s book, but I found the message to be really touching and symbolic. It definitely spoke to my inner child. The book is called “You Are Special” by Max Lucado.

The book is about a little town of wooden toys, called Wemmicks. Each day, the Wemmicks go around and give each other gold stars or grey dots. The gold stars are given to the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks and the grey dots are given to Wemmicks who make mistakes or are just ordinary.

One particular Wemmick named Punchinello is covered in grey dots and he feels pretty terrible about himself. Then one day he visits the woodcarver who created him, Eli, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source. The story is a reminder that we are special to God just the way we are.

I will definitely read this book to our son Ethan, and I highly recommend it for any parents or even adults who have struggled with self-worth.

Finding a Firm Foundation

This is when I learned that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me at all. I was looking for my self-worth in all the wrong places. Now, I know I am good enough because God created me.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13–14

When I feel like I am not good enough, I can rely on the fact that God created me just the way I am on purpose. I was created by an Almighty God who does everything for good. I was born to be unique.

When I came to realize this, it changed everything about my life.

Stay Tuned…

There is much more to this story and I’ll be sharing a lot more in future blog posts.

If you felt like you could relate to this story or found this post was helpful, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at lauren@runningforwellness.com.

If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. Check out the Mental Health Resources page for additional mental health education and resources.

You May Also Be Interested In:

Advice for Taking Care of Your Mental Health This Winter

How to Find the Right Therapist for You

Bullying – The Harmful Impacts and How to Prevent It

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5 Comments

  1. So many women deal with self doubt and anxiety. Amen.

  2. Love this – thank you for sharing <3

  3. I struggle with the same things. It’s been a long road to loving myself. Max Lucado has also been an author I referred to in my life. He has such a simple and unique perspective. Sometimes it’s more effective to look at things more simply like a child. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I love the reference to the children’s book. Children’s books can carry powerful messages.

  5. Great article and so excited for you to share your story. I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner and one thing I often say to my patients (as well as friends and sometimes even strangers…lol) is ‘bless and release’. I use to be one that worries about what others thought, did I make the right decision, re-analyzing something that was said. And then I heard these three words and said them to myself over and over. Now, I’ve learned that there will always be someone that doesn’t like me, talks negatively or behind my back, causes stress in my life…..whatever. But all I have control over is myself and how much I love me. So…..bless and release all of the others and other mess!

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