Daily vitamins made simple & personal.

(pssttt… there’s a treat for my readers at the end of this post. Don’t miss out!)

Sometimes I like to write about the things I care about— faith, relationships, love, necessity. Other times, I like to write about the things and products in my life that are changing my life. This is one of those other times. .

I deal with depression and anxiety. I see a therapist every three weeks and a psychiatrist every 6 months. The therapist and psychiatrist talk to one another. They collaborate to figure out how to walk me into the best life possible. With depression, it is sometimes hard to believe in that “best life possible.”
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They talk to me separately about the importance of whole foods, exercise, routines. I’m like a parrot- rattling off all the right answers until we get to the part about vitamins.
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“Do you take vitamins?”
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I answer, “Yes, of course, I take vitamins.”
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They ask, “Which ones?”
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I get nervous and I say a bunch of things.
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“Well, I dabble in fish oil. I occasionally take a multivitamin but it truly makes me nauseous. Sometimes I take sketchy pills I see on Doctor Oz but that’s always pretty short-lived.”
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Let’s be honest: The whole process of vitamins overwhelms me. I know I need to be taking them but which ones? And what brands? Can I just have the gummies? Why does health feel so hard sometimes?
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My friend Lindsey posted about this company Care/of two months ago. It was an image of a packet of vitamins with her name on it. I was instantly intrigued. I checked out the company and the love affair really began.
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Instead of spending an hour staring at the rows of vitamins in Target, I took a quiz. The quiz asked me about my lifestyle, my goals, my values, and all the things. Sleep patterns. Activity. Skin issues. Illnesses. The quiz took about 5 minutes. I personally loved it because it made me feel seen and known as an individual. If I have learned one thing through my health journey it’s this: there is no one size fits all solution. Each person is different. My needs are different than your needs. I am thankful for companies who call out our differences instead of trying to remedy us all with sameness.
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My quiz tells me I need the following:

  • Rhodiola- The Cosmonaut: Supports stress and mood. I’m down for anything that chills out my brain.
  • Multivitamin- The One: I added this one to my packet after the quiz because my doctors are constantly saying, “MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN!”
  • Probiotic Blend- The Harmonious Gut: My mama talks endlessly about probiotics and that I need them. Hey mom- I am doing okay now!
  • Astaxanthin- The Coral King : This is a biggie for me because this little pill helps me with my psoriasis. Skin problems, see you later!

A few days after I ordered the vitamins, a little box showed up with 30 individual packs for each day of the month. I must have shown Lane the packaging at least thirty times because I was just so tickled with the presentation. As crazy as it might seem, I love having my name on all the little packets. It feels personalized and custom-made for me. It’s the little things, guys.
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I’m one month into the experience and I can proudly scream about how much I love the following:

1) It helps with creating healthy habits.
I keep the little box at my desk in a place where I can see it every day. There are no excuses, really. I grab a pack from the box and take it with a meal. No fuss, no excuses. I’ve only missed a few days and that’s because I am still getting used to the process.
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2) It’s trustworthy.
I like honest companies. I don’t know how to figure out who is honest in the industry of vitamins. I am always wondering if I need a different brand of multi vitamins or if I should be trying a different probiotic. In this case, the vitamins are all coming from one place. The tough decisions (the ones I was never good at making anyway) have left the building. I am free to trust the experts and go with my gut (dumb probiotic joke).
3) It’s perfect for traveling. I give it an A+!
I can’t tell you the number of pill boxes I’ve bought in the last few years. I think each one is going to be the solution. I imagine myself refilling it and taking my little pill box on all my travels with me. It has yet to happen. When I went to New York City and Tampa the other week, I simply grabbed 5 packets from the bag and threw them into my carry-on. Again— no fuss, no excuses.
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4) It simply inspires me.
I love innovative companies. I love people who see an everyday occurrence like taking vitamins and try to make it simpler. This sort of stuff fires me up. Overall, subscribing to Care/of feels like an experience more than anything else. I love the branding and the simplicity of the packaging. It’s taken the stress out of vitamins for me. For that, I am pretty stinkin’ grateful.

 


.This isn’t a sponsored post. I am passionate about sharing the things that matter to me with all of you.  I reached out to Care/of and I asked if there was something I could offer to you guys. They were kind (and really speedy), giving me a coupon code for 50% off your first subscription of vitamins. Just use “BRENCHER50” as your promo code at checkout and enjoy half off your first month of vitamins! 
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13 thoughts on mental health.

1.

I didn’t want to work out this morning but I pushed myself out into the sunlight anyway.

I’m confused by the weather as I walk the streets of my neighborhood. November in Atlanta is like a puberty-stricken teenager square in the middle of an identity crisis. Some days she is hot. Some days she is cold. She dresses up like winter on a Monday and then slips back into the nylon of spring by Wednesday. I wish November would make up its mind.

I pull out my phone and set the time for 45 minutes. I only need to walk and get my blood pumping for 45 minutes today. That’s all it will take.

The fight to keep your “normal.”

I’ve told this story a few times before. It happened in November 2014. It was the week of Thanksgiving and I was on the verge of a 4-month battle with severe depression. I say “verge” because, even though the depression had technically set in, those first few weeks were nothing compared to the rock-bottom I would encounter throughout the months of December, January and February.

Talking with my good friend Clifton, I balled my fists up and huffed at him with frustration, “I just want to go back to normal.”

Hungry love.

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1.

I’ve been writing a lot about anxiety recently for my book chapters. Without knowing it, anxiety is a bigger character in the story I am telling than I anticipated to be. 

I am writing this story with Lane’s permission. There aren’t many parts of Lane and my’s growing relationship that I’ve shared on the internet. I’ve been a blogger for 5 years now and so I have learned how important it is to separate your life from what is happening on the screen and what is taking place off of it. Relationships can easily be muddied up when two people are invested in the image of their relationship rather than the character of it.

My heart for every reader– as I write my truth– is that you will invest your life in a person who is more of a map to you than a story. Stories are beautiful but maps take you places. Remember to go, and see, and do. Put down your phone and live love out loud, not just through captions and tags. 

Fear’s last love song.

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Hannah- 

So…I was really hoping I could come back to you a month later with some huge spiritual experience and an “I’m out of the woods” story.  I don’t have one.

Instead it has been baby steps forward, only to stumble back again.  Some days I’m fine, some days all I want to do is lay down and cry because it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Darkness has been so evident lately and I’m so scared of falling into it instead of God.  I know it’s really not my battle because I’m not strong enough to fight against it…but I don’t really know how to surrender it to God, either. I’m not really sure how to trust someone I can’t see, feel or hear but I want to.

I’ll hold you in the light.

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I.

One of my girlfriends invites me to yoga and I say yes immediately. Before I even know the time of the class, I am finding my Nike tights and wrapping my hair into a bun. I am checking the trunk of the car for my mat.

I agree to go to a hot yoga class for the simple fact that I don’t like yoga. Not even a little bit. The breathing. The stillness. The presence. All of it makes me nauseous and panicky.

I walk into every class always optimistic that this will be the day when I fall in love with yoga. When I become one of those people who can’t go a day without getting on the mat and knocking out a few downward dogs.

It’s always the same pattern though: I’m only on the mat for 10 minutes, in the stickiness of a hot yoga studio, before I want the class to be over. I wonder why I agreed to this.

I mean, what is yoga to a woman who is impatient and squirmish? What is a yoga to a woman who is thinking 5 hours ahead and 2 years back always?

So it would make you wonder: why spend the money? Why take the class? If you already know you’ll hate it, why go? Why submit yourself to the torture?

Plain and simple: just because I don’t feel like doing something isn’t reason enough to not do it. There’s a mountain of things in my life that I don’t feel like doing and I do them anyway. Yoga is just a 60-minute reminder that if I push past my feelings then something better will win.

II.

The whole yoga class, my mind is on prayer. We are pushing up into positions and holding a posture. We are balancing and my mind is racing with the thought of knees-on-the-ground prayer. Don’t mistaken me for the holy– I wasn’t actually praying during the class. I was rolling around in my mind why prayer is so hard for me. As we keep moving posture to posture, and I try to remember to breathe, I keep thinking that this restlessness and desire to move which I feel in yoga class somehow mirrors how I feel when I go to pray.

It’s the same restless, I-don’t-want-to-do-this feeling I get with both yoga and prayer.

III.

I’ve only written about prayer once before and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve put in this corner of the internet.

But I must reiterate that: I’ve only written about it once. I’m the farthest thing from an expert. I like to write about the things I have decent experience with and prayer just feels like a practice that fails me. I pray, yes. But I wish my prayers felt more active, less forced. More powerful, less staged.

 

IV.

There are three people on my heart today who need something– one wants a baby, one wants a love story, one wants a miracle. And I keep thinking of these extravagant ways to pray for them. I keep thinking that I should devise some plan that will keep me in prayer mode and I can then be able to measure how much I prayed. How long and how hard and how diligently I prayed for them.

And while my brain runs wild with ideas, this little voice inside of me speaks, “Why don’t you just start? Why don’t you cease thinking about the idea of praying for people and just say their name out loud? What is holding you back?”

Fear, I guess. It’s not even fear that my prayers won’t be answered.

For years, I told people I was praying for them but never really doing it. It was like a default answer when something would happen, “Oh, oh, I’ll pray for you right now.” No, those prayers never burned in my palms or my brain. No, I never cried out in desperation to God.

I guess, as a result of years not doing what I said I was doing, I wondered if people didn’t really pray for me either. I wonder if they faked the motions too.

It’s a combination of that and the fear that my faith will never grow. That my prayers will never be bold enough. That I’ll never be one of those warriors– one of those people who can write the answered prayers down and, at the end of each day, cry out in awe of the faithfulness of God.

I want proof to hand people that God is working but my fear stands in the way.

V.

I’ll hold you in the light.

That’s what the Quakers say when they want someone to know they’ll be praying. I’ll hold you in the light. I think I really like that. It says without saying it, “I see you.”

I see you.

You’re right here. Your arms might be flailing and your body might be restless but you are right here. The dark might seem endless, but I am holding in the light. All of you might want to give up but there will be light, baby. The light will come.

I’ll hold you in the light. When your faith is failing. And your lungs want to give out. And you don’t understand God– how he moves and how he operates. And you know what? I don’t get it either. There are those mornings, and those nights, where I want to kick and scream and just give up on God. But where I would go? Where would I go that it wouldn’t be darker?

VI.

Sometimes you pray and sometimes you are the prayer.

Your scars aren’t mine until you show them to me.

VII.

I have a friend who, for the years leading up to the time he met the love of his life, would pray for this person every time he came across a dime. In change piles. On the sidewalk. In between couch cushions. He would pick it up, mark a “P” on the dime, and then pray for that girl. Short, quick silver prayers.

On the day he asked her to marry him, he dumped out jars and jars full of dimes. Jars and jars full of prayers, said in advance for someone he didn’t even know when he first started praying for her.

I like to think about what it felt like to be that girl, the one with all the jars full of dimes poured all around her, to have someone show her, “I prayed this much for you. I prayed this wide for you. I prayed this thoroughly for you. Even if it was just picking a dime off the ground by the train, it was a thought I drew captive and dedicated it to you.”

What’s more beautiful than someone who holds their own thoughts hostage long enough to draw your name in the lines?

We could be those sorts of people. There isn’t even a need to do something extravagant when it comes to prayer. We don’t even need the dimes. It just requires we show up. We stay when we don’t feel anything. We keep whispering a person’s name out loud until this faith grows inside of us that we are heard.

We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen.
We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen.

 

VIII.

I keep thinking I must light a candle. I must posture myself for prayer. But God wants me in the car. He wants in the grocery store. He wants me anywhere that I am standing to just ask him for help. No big productions. No grand proposals. Just him and I and all the honest conversations we’ve yet to have.

Honest conversation with God #1 (AKA prayer):

Make me want you.

I know that sounds like a rap song but it’s all I want to ask of you: make me want you. Make me think about you. Make me draw back to you. Make me want to ask you for help before I go out and seek to stitch my own cape.

Here is my honesty.

Here are my bare bones.

Make me want you.

Make me want you more.

Good morning Baltimore.

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I take two white pills every night before I crawl into the sheets. They are a reminder to me, more than anything, that November happened.

November happened.

And so did December. January. February. A collection of months I wished, for so long, I could scrape off the calendar. I thought I knew darkness before those months. In a lot of ways, I didn’t know anything until those months came crashing on top of me. Sometimes you think you are fine until everything around you falls apart. And then you see the truth: everything was not fine. You were dying inside. You were clinging to other people to complete you. You were desperately in need of rewiring. 

I think there are times in our lives when we need an upgrade. Or a software update. And then there are times when we need all the little things inside of us to be rewired. I held it all together on the surface. I claimed I was fine. Really, I didn’t know how to turn my head upward to God and just be “enough” for my own self.

If you claim you love God and then don’t somehow commit to that most basic gesture, there’s probably a lot of wires inside of you that you’re resistant to let anyone touch. 

 

I went through depression once before.

Everyone told me afterwards to be thankful for it because a movement of love came out of it. I am thankful. But it doesn’t make me hate the dark any less. 

I didn’t know the statistics. The statistics say if you’ve struggled with depression once before then there is an 80% chance you’ll go there again. I kept telling myself it would never repeat itself. Bad things don’t repeat, I whispered.

I refused to see a counselor. I began to close myself off. I fell deeper into sadness as September danced. I ignored the warning signs. 

A girl at my speaking engagement last night asked me, “How can I make sure I don’t go through it again? The depression.”

“You can’t,” I told her. “But you can keep track of the warning signs.”

 

There were warning signs. Usually there always are. There was sitting on the floor of my office space– after consuming an ungodly amount of cups of chile– crying.

“I think everything will probably turn around in March,” I told one of my best friends. It was October. I thought if I could just push hard enough into a “new season” then God would follow suit.

She only looked at me. Nodded like she wasn’t convinced. “I don’t know if that’s true.” I hated her for being honest. Today I love her for only being honest.

There was Halloween night, surrounded by all of my best friends. I was wearing a T-shirt with the letters “LIFE” across my chest. A fitting role for Life, I passed out lemons that whole night– plucking them out from a plastic Jack-O-Lantern bucket and planting them into the hands of strangers at the party.

I remember being surrounded but feeling completely alone. I drove home crying that night (no surprise). I remember wishing I didn’t have to wake up in the morning. There was no reason for getting up.

There was sitting in my car on the morning of November 18th. My best friend didn’t leave my side. I slammed my hands against the steering wheel and screamed, “I don’t want this.” 

“You are not going to get out of this until you learn to be content.” She had told me this several times before.

I didn’t want to learn to be content. It seemed like such a distant and unattainable feeling– the feeling of contentment. 

“I am content,” I told her. “I have given God everything.”

“You are not content,” she snapped back. “There is so much you are not letting him have.”

All of these things– and then a dozen more– were warning signs. Warning signs that I was tumbling right back into the darkness.

 

My life broke into two on the afternoon of November 18th.

It’s a day on the calendar I will never forget. Nearly 9 months ago. People ask what I mean when I write “broke into two.”

Here’s the truth: some things in life don’t come with all the right words to describe them. All I can tell you is that I remember sitting with a friend in the conference room of our workspace. I asked her to pray for me because I was so sad lately. She prayed. I kept my head down and tried to convince myself that the prayers would actually work. At that time in my life I prayed to get attention and to make the Varsity team for heaven, not because I actually believed God was listening. 

I remember how she started talking about something after she said Amen. I was listening. And then pain. Sharp pain. All across my body. This sweeping feeling covering me from head to toe. All of a sudden, I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t move. My mind started racing.

“I feel so sick,” I told her. “I have to go home.”

Really, my mind was begging: What’s wrong? What’s going on? What’s happening? 

Sharp pain. Heavy fear. Tidal waves of anxiety crashing mercilessly into me. I didn’t understand. I thought I was going insane. Can life actually flip in a minute? 

The intern outside the workspace tried to bring me into a conversation about the time he went surfing with Rob Bell. I was trying to get in my car and leave.

“I’m sure Rob Bell is great,” I told him. “I’m sorry but I have to go home.”

I got into my car. Got home. Crawled into bed. Pleaded with God that whole night but the voices were stronger than I’d ever heard them before, “You’re no good. You’re a liar. You’re a fake. You are nothing.” 

I fell asleep shaking. Shaking with no answers.

That night was empty. I was afraid I was hearing God say the words he’d wanted to tell me all along, “Hey girl, I don’t choose you. I just don’t want you. I just don’t choose you.” 

 

The next morning I couldn’t get out of bed.

Not by my own strength. It took me a solid half-hour to just rise and put on pants and a heavy sweater and a bright red cap. I had a flight at 10am for Baltimore. A speaking engagement.

I sat in my coffee shop before heading to the airport. I tried to drink a London Fog but my hands were too shaky. I kept writing down questions: What is happening? What is going on? Why do I feel so paralyzed and sick?

It was 0 degrees in Baltimore. The most I ate there was two slices of hotel pizza. My hands trembled the whole time that I spoke. I remember telling myself I would never go back to that city again.

I hid inside of an empty terminal- my body sprawled across three seats as I lay curled in a ball crying and shaking. Not really caring if anyone could see me.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” I texted to my closest friends. The ones I knew would pray. I’d been dealing with the paralyzing fear for over 48 hours now. It hadn’t ceased, only grown.

I vomitted several times in that airport. Out of fear. Out of terror. That would be the start of months of no sleep and no faith that God was coming back for me.

Nine months ago, Baltimore became a place on the map I never wanted to return to. In the next few months, a list of places I never wanted to remember again would assemble itself.

 

The paralyzing fear was relentless for over four months. You wouldn’t know that if you scanned social media but life was utter darkness. I bring that point up only to say: we have to be extremely careful about assuming we know a person’s life based on what they post online. We have to be gracious– no matter what– because everyone is fighting a battle we cannot see. Sure, we like the idea of being real & raw on social media but honestly only a few will ever feel safe posting the real mess out there for the world to see. We rip into one another too easily for that. But be gracious, please. And maybe sometimes remind yourself:  it’s a lot of filters and pretty things but that’s not reality. Reality cannot be cropped and contrasted. 

In those four months, I slept. A lot. I didn’t watch movies. I didn’t go to group events. I wrote down every “small victory” on sheets of paper. We planned my move back to Connecticut. The mornings were the worst. It felt like heavy blankets of despair were being piled and piled on top of me. I’d get up at 4am because I could not sleep and I would sit wrapped in blankets holding a Bible that I struggled to believe in anymore.

I went from the most driven girl to the one who could barely perform three tasks in a day. Doctors gave me all these drugs with long names. The parts of me that lost friends to drug addiction was terribly afraid to swallow them. They just wanted to calm me down. Stop the tears. At night, there was sleeping pills. My favorite part of the day was going to sleep because– for the first two months– nothing stole life from me in my sleep.

I slept on an air mattress in one of my good friend’s apartments for a lot of those nights. In the morning I would crawl into his bed and he would hold my hand as I cried. It felt like I was trapped in a tiny room with no windows and no doors. I would cry out in agony because I could not escape the fog.

“I just want to fog to go,” I would murmur through the tears. “I just want the fog to go.”

He would squeeze my hand tighter and call me “baby girl.” 

I remember being curled in the corner of a doctor’s office in Atlanta. The man kept asking me questions. Do you think about hurting yourself? Do you have thoughts of hurting other people?

I wasn’t doing my makeup anymore. I wasn’t doing my hair. I’d lost 10 pounds. I was tired. I was wired.

“It seems you have severe depression,” he said to me. That wasn’t news. I didn’t need another doctor to diagnose me– I needed someone to grab my shoulders and yell loud, “You are coming out of the woods. Do you hear me, girl? You are going to come out of the woods.”

And then he stopped scribbling. He looked at me. I locked eyes with him. I didn’t want him to turn away.

“Are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“That’s not a question I can ask,” he answered. “But my job aside, I want you to know– the devil is rejoicing right now and we will not let him have that.” 

That man– in his white coat– was one of the many beacons of light that convinced me I could keep going. I could keep fighting. I could be like Moses, in that moment where Moses had nothing left in him but he let the others hold up his arms.

That’s what friendship is at the end of the day– people who will hold up your arms.

 

I don’t have all the answers.

Not even a few. Honestly, I hate typing these words. I really do. Because I wanted to be passive for so long and believe in things like Karma and not ruffle feathers when it came to God. But as powerful of a source of light in this world that exists, there is also a powerful source of darkness. And if we don’t talk about the darkness, it starts to win.

The darkness can refine us but we cannot let it win. We must not let it win.

So let’s be real: I never planned to write this.

Let’s be more real: I am hesitating to publish it.

But I looked down at my plane ticket today and realized I was going back to Baltimore. A layover in Baltimore. And all I could think was, “I don’t want to go back to Baltimore. I don’t want this mess to take my body and my brain again.” 

And then, then I knew that I would write because no one benefits from silence. No one will talk about the darkness if we all try to act like it isn’t real, like it doesn’t matter.

 

It matters.

Mental illness matters. Warning signs matter. Not standing alone with your ghosts matters. You matter. And you are precious. 

I’m not saying that to be corny. I am saying it because I fought desperately hard for my life in the last few months. I fought really, really hard against mental illness to be able to be standing today. I wanted to give up. I suddenly understood why people even think of taking their own lives.

I’ve walked the line in the last few months of wanting all my memories of the darkness to leave me and knowing that I will never be able to shake the sleepless nights– the dozens of stories I haven’t shared yet– because they made me. The darkness made me. It burned me up and shook me good and I fought until I could finally breathe and say, “No.” No, the darkness cannot have me. There is far too much left for my little life. 

Life is such a precious gift but when a fog covers your view of reality it’s so hard to rest your body in the gift. It’s easy to be ashamed of the fog, the sickness, the illness. But what if we broke the shame with words? What if we dismantled the stigma by figuring out how to hold up the arms of others?

So here’s a baby step: Please talk about the fog. Please talk about the emptiness. Please don’t let yourself stand in the mess alone, so much so that you cave inward and you hoist up a white flag without anyone ever knowing you were dying inside.

Please speak. Please speak.

Don’t be afraid to go back to Baltimore.

Just don’t be afraid of Baltimore.